Darcy Graham will make his first Edinburgh appearance of the season against a “fully loaded” Wasps at BT Murrayfield tonight as the capital side seek to get their European Challenge Cup campaign back on track.
Edinburgh face the Gallagher Premiership strugglers twice in the next two weeks and after only sharing the points with Bordeaux-Begles two weeks back they probably need to win both games against the Coventry-based former European champions.
But any thought Wasps would come resting players for what appears to be a testing domestic campaign has been dismissed by their team, pointed out assistant coach Duncan Hodge.
“It seems they’ve not rested anyone, (Malakai) Fekitoa and (Lima) Sopoaga’s are playing, as are (Dan) Robson at 9, Keiran Brookes, Jack Willis, (Sione) Vailanu at No 8 in the back. As far as I can see they’ve gone as strong as they can.
“We didn’t know quite what they would do, obviously they’re struggling a bit in the Premiership but you look at their team and they’ve got some great players there, including a couple of relatively recent All Blacks in the back line.
“They’ve got lots of quality, and they need a win and need to get some momentum in the Premiership so they’ve come fully loaded. That’s a great thing for us, it’s be a brilliant test against a good side and hopefully gets people along to watch because you’ll see some quality players tomorrow night.”
Graham, who had a calf problem after the World Cup, is in the team for the first time this season and Edinburgh have a strong pack with six Scotland stars selected.
The home back row looks particularly with Jamie Ritchie back from injury to team up with Hamish Watson, and Nick Haining returning from his two week suspension.
Matt Scott popped a rib last week against Munster, but Hodge is confident that George Taylor can continue his outstanding form in his place this week.
“George has done really well, the 15 minutes he played off the bench last week he was really good, and when he’s started he’s been excellent, down at Cardiff, and also at Agen,” said Hodge.
“He’s diligent at his work and he gives us a point of difference because he’s strong and makes line breaks. He’s clinical with the ball, and has played 13 and 12, but we’ve asked him to cover the wing and fullback as well, so he’s versatile and a really good all-round rugby player.”
Taylor’s centre partner tonight James Johnstone is the latest Edinburgh player to agree new terms, his second deal since he returned to XV-a-side rugby at head coach Richard Cockerill’s behest.
Cockerill “poached” Johnstone from the national sevens set-up – where he played in more than 40 tournaments for Scotland – initially as cover but after a strong pre-season before the coach’s first season in charge two years ago he was quickly signed up to full-time terms.
Last season he was a consistent figure in Edinburgh’s excellent European Cup run, scoring key tries away to Newcastle and Toulon as the club reached the quarter-finals.
Edinburgh team: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, George Taylor, Duhan van der Merwe; Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally (capt), Simon Berghan; Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Jamie Bhatti, Pietro Ceccarelli, Sam Thomson, Viliame Mata, Nic Groom, Jaco van der Walt, Damien Hoyland.