Former Dunfermline and Dundee HSFP forward Fraser McKenzie and rookie wing Lee Jones are the first beneficiaries of coach Rob Moffat’s “rewards for performance” policy with inclusion in the Edinburgh team to launch their Magners League season at Cardiff on Saturday.
McKenzie is preferred to Scotland cap Craig Hamilton and Jones gets his first start in his debut season as a professional for the trip to the Welsh capital after both impressed in preseason matches against Bath and London Irish.
Edinburgh are looking for their fourth successive win away to Cardiff, and extra spice comes with Scotland stand-off Dan Parks likely to make his debut for the Blues after his summer move from Glasgow.
“It’ll be an interesting one,” said Moffat. “We fully respect what Dan can do and has done against us in the past, and his game has moved on in the past year. We know how he can dictate and dominate a game and we have to make sure he doesn’t.
“The players all know Dan well and his relative strengths and weaknesses, but the other side of the coin is that he knows our guys pretty well too and I’m sure he’s going to bring some of that to their game.”
The coach used just about all his fit players over the two pre-season games and was using them as trials for the first part of the season, a period when Edinburgh thrived last year before a poor finish saw them finish out of the play-offs.
He added, “Lots of guys have put their hands up for selection, which is good, and we keep making the point that it is a squad with 23 every match day this year.
“We’ve put new guys straight in, Lee Jones deserves his chance after his performances in both games and Fraser has put his hand up and deserves his selection. It’s good for everyone to see that if you perform you’ll get your chance and that counts for the younger guys as well.”Moffat has fallen back on his reliables in half-backs Mike Blair and Phil Godman, and the welcome return of Chris Paterson from the injury that cost him the last third of last season perhaps not uncoincidentally the spell where Edinburgh slumped.
“Chris is gagging to play, he could have played a full 80 in preseason but we wanted to involve everybody,” continued Moffat.
“It’s been the longest preseason ever for him, he’s had that bit of contact and is ready. He’s important to us for what he brings to the squad in experience, enthusiasm, communication and what many might think first but I take last, his goalkicking.
“He won the Golden Boot for a 91% success rate last season, so it’s important, but first and foremost he’s just a great rugby player.”
Edinburgh won at Cardiff Arms in 2008, repeated the dose in the final game at the old ground at the end of the 2008-09 season and then upset the opening party of the Cardiff City Stadium at the start of last season.
“To do it twice in a row was no accident, and to have done it three times means you can’t say they underestimated us,” he said.
“We respect them and the squad they have but we know we can get a result, we’ve imposed our game on them there before and there’s no question we can again.”
Summer signings Alex Grove and Netani Talei make Edinburgh debuts with young prop Jack Gilding set to do the same off the bench.