Edinburgh will need to wait until next week for a full wave of their Scotland stars to return to duty with national captain Stuart McInally not due back until the end of this month.
Richard Cockerill’s side haven’t really needed their internationalists so far with three resounding wins out of four outings in the Guinness PRO14, enabling Cockerill to rest key men for this week’s trip to Treviso to take on Benetton.
Wing Duhan van der Merwe is left out after scoring a hat-trick against Scarlets last week, but it’s a rotational decision as player rest is vital with a busy spell coming up.
“We’ve got 12 games on the bounce – these guys can’t play every game,” said the head coach. “Last year, we were forced a bit with injury in the number of games guys played.
“The RWC year is a very difficult year but we’ve got a good team and god depth now. (Damien) Hoyland has been in good form and Duhan will come back into the squad next week so he’ll be hungry for that.
“Same with Pierre Schoeman who misses this week with Jamie Bhatti now fit and healthy and ready to go. We’re just looking after our players and we have a few guys who are injured.”
McInally will be gone for the same six week period allowed for Jonny Gray at Glasgow, by stipulation of the national team management due to miles on the clock during a grueling 2019.
“Stuart was Gregor’s decision,” said Cockerill. “We’ll manage the other players individually and they’ll come back in over the next few weeks.
“Simon Berghan and Ben Toolis were available last week and this week but we’ve had discussions with the players and I’ve chosen to give them a bit more time. Next week, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, John Barclay and Darcy Graham will come back to training.
“McInally won’t be available for the first two rounds and in Europe, while WP Nel, won’t be available for the first round. We’ll just manage them individually and make sure that when they’re back, they’re ready to commit fully.
“They’ve had a long time away from home and emotionally as well as physically, that’s pretty draining. I’ve experienced that myself.”
Benetton reached the play-offs last year in Edinburgh’s stead and the Italians are among the most improved teams in the competition.
“It’s just a case of backing up what we did last week,” continued Cockerill. “Benetton have been a different team over the past two or three years.
“We know they’ll be difficult opposition and they’ll also be looking to integrate players back into their team. We need to go there and put a performance in if we want to take the points.
“Then we’ll rotate and bring some more international guys back in next week against the Dragons, and then we’re into Europe.
“It’s a tough period coming up with the European games, a double-header with Wasps, and also Munster away.
“The competition for places is good, we just need to keep everyone fresh. Making guys feel a little bit vulnerable for their spot has worked well for us in the early part of the season. The guys are really motivated.”
Edinburgh team: Blair Kinghorn; Eroni Sau, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Damien Hoyland; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (capt); Jamie Bhatti, Mike Willemse, Pietro Ceccarelli; Fraser McKenzie, Lewis Carmichael; Ally Miller, Luke Crosbie, Magnus Bradbury.
Replacements: David Cherry, Pierre Schoeman, Murray McCallum, Sam Thomson, Viliame Mata, Nic Groom, Simon Hickey, George Taylor.