London Irish have made their intentions for the European Challenge Cup plain with a notably unders-trength team but Edinburgh are going all out on all front, vowed head coach Richard Cockerill.
The plain-spoken Cockerill called the Irish team named for the pool opener in Reading tomorrow as “certainly mixed” but says his own rotated team is because he’s still looking at combinations and seeking to keep as much of his squad as fresh as possible.
“I want us to be competitive every week and try and win every week,” said Cockerill. “Edinburgh have proven they can perform well in cup competitions by raising themselves on occasion, and we need to be a team that raises itself every week.
“It’s certainly a mixed selection from Irish but it’s hard to say if they’re prioritising the Premiership. The league has relegation and there’s a lot of money at stake.”
Cockerill’s changes come from the need “to keep everybody’s minds and bodies as fresh as we can,” he continued.
“We’ve got lots of players of a similar standard and it doesn’t make any sense picking the same 15, 18 guys every week. It’s good to get some rotation, and until people really start to nail their spots down we’ll continue to do that.
“And if we’ve got two players in the same position that are both playing well, it’s good to keep them fresh. It’s going to be a long season; we don’t need to be breaking people before we rest them.”
One step-up in the selection is the first start for Scotland prop Allan Dell, who had an impressive cameo off the bench against Zebre last week that helped nail down the win.
“Dell, in the absence of Dickinson, you’d like to think will be pushing on for Test duty in the autumn, and he’s got a lot to play for,” said Cockerill. “he’s coming back in fresh, having had a good rest after the summer tour and getting over all his niggles and the back issue that he had – it’s good to get guys back in with a fresh impetus and actually start to get some combinations.
“We’re getting some choices now. Simon Berghan has started the season well and is putting pressure on WP Nel, (Stuart) McInally has done very well, we’re creating depth and keeping everyone on their toes.”
Some of Cockerill’s choices are enforced, with Blair Kinghorn out after stiches on a wound to his kneecap, and James Johnstone not quite over the protocols from his head injury last week.
Skipper Magnus Bradbury is resting a shoulder niggle, and with Grant Gilchrist on the bench Fraser McKenzie will skipper the team.
Duncan Weir is also rested due to an abdomen strain, allowing Jason Tovey to start his fourth game in succession.
Edinburgh Rugby: Glenn Bryce; Dougie Fife, Chris Dean, Junior Rasolea, Damien Hoyland; Jason Tovey, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie (c), Ben Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, John Hardie, Cornell Du Preez.
Replacements: Neil Cochrane, Darryl Marfo, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Luke Crosbie, Nathan Fowles, Tom Brown, Jason Harries.
London Irish: Ben Ransom; Joe Cokanasiga, Tom Fowlie, Johnny Wililams, Topsy Ojo (c); Theo Brophy Clews, Ben Meehan; Harry Elrington, Tom Woolstencroft, Oliver Hoskins, William Lloyd, Josh McNally, Max Northcote-Green , Conor Gilsenan, Lasha Lomidze.
Replacements: Todd Gleave, Tom Smallbone, Lovejoy Chawatama, Jack Cooke, Isaac Curtis-Harris, Scott Steele, Jacob Atkins, Ben Loader.