The realities of what faces Edinburgh during the enlarged international window for the Autumn Nations Cup are writ large on Richard Cockerill’s team to take on Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14 on Monday night.
The capital club are without 23 players – nearly half their senior squad – due to international calls, injuries and unavailability. Eight of the 23-man squad suiting up for the Blues have played three games or less for the club, and there are potentially three debutants.
Fijian international prop Lee-Roy Atalifo is the only new face starting, and seven academy or first-year players have been named the squad.
Young stand-off Nathan Chamberlain makes only his second start, with Jaco van der Walt absent in South Africa after his marriage on Friday.
““We obviously have a large number of players unavailable due to injury or on international duty, but that gives an opportunity to younger guys that will be keen to make an impact from the get-go,” said Cockerill.
“We were happy with a gritty and hard-earned win against Scarlets and the boys have backed it up with a tough week of training.
“Winning gives you confidence. Winning’s a habit, and we’re happy that we’ve broken the losing streak we were in and we can continue to develop as a squad as we prepare to face a really strong Cardiff outfit.
“They’re a good side, not missing a huge amount of players to Wales, so it will be a real test for us on Monday night.”
Lock Andries Ferreira will make his first start for the club with both Andrew Davidson and Lewis Carmichael out with injuries. Dave Cherry gets the nod ahead of Mike Willemse at hooker.
One boost is the return of Luke Crosbie after injury at open-side, while Henry Pyrgos will be a calming influence on the youngsters as captain and scrum-half.
Young props Sam Grahamslaw and Dan Gamble are named among the replacements and will make their Edinburgh Rugby debuts if called upon, while two other replacements, Marshall Sykes and Connor Boyle, have made just one appearance for the club so far.
Edinburgh Rugby (vs Cardiff Blues, BT Murrayfield, Monday kick-off 7.45pm)
Jack Blain; Eroni Sau, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Jamie Farndale; Nathan Chamberlain, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, David Cherry, Lee-Roy Atalifo; Andries Ferreira, Jamie Hodgson; Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Ally Miller.
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Sam Grahamslaw, Dan Gamble, Marshall Sykes, Connor Boyle, Nic Groom, Charlie Shiel, James Johnstone.