Former Strathallan and Howe of Fife teenager Jamie Ritchie could go from being on the sidelines at Edinburgh to making his European debut for the club in France tonight.
The 19-year-old was one of the young back row players under Alan Solomons’ watch that looked to be marginalised by the decision to bring Scotland international John Hardie to the club last month once his World Cup duties were over, with the New Zealand-born flanker a free agent.
However Solomons promised that both Ritchie, Scotland’s Under-20 captain last season, and fellow young back rower Magnus Bradbury would still get their chances to develop in Edinburgh shirts even before the back row log-jam was eased with David Denton’s unexpectedly swift departure to Bath last week.
And sure enough Ritchie is likely to see action off the bench as Edinburgh seek to follow up their excellent start to the European Challenge Cup pool with the trip to Agen, who have been struggling in the Top 14 so far this season.
Solomons makes five changes from the team that defeated Grenoble at BT Murrayfield last week, with Sean Kennedy getting a rare start ahead of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne at scrum-half, and Tongan wing Otulea Katoa making his first start on the wing.
Fraser McKenzie returns from suspension to bolster the second row while Nasi Manu comes in at blindside in a formidable back row trio with Hardie and the in-form Cornell du Preez, man of the match in the last two Edinburgh games.
Ross Ford, who again teams up with international team mates Alasdair Dickinson and WP Nel in the front row, takes the captaincy from Mike Coman.
“We know the atmosphere at Friday’s game will be emotionally charged and will respect our hosts in reflecting on those involved in last week’s tragedy,” said Solomons.
“Our focus will be on our match and our performance. While we took the win over FC Grenoble there were parts of our game where we fell short and we’ve worked hard in training this week to improve those areas.
“Although Agen lost away from home to London Irish last weekend we know that French teams are a different animal in front of their home support and we’ll need to really put in a performance.”
Edinburgh Rugby: Dougie Fife; Tom Brown, William Helu, Matt Scott, Otulea Katoa; Greig Tonks, Sean Kennedy; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (c), WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Fraser McKenzie, Nasi Manu, John Hardie, Cornell Du Preez
Replacements: Neil Cochrane, Rory Sutherland, Simon Berghan, Alex Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, Nathan Fowles, Blair Kinghorn, Chris Dean