EDINBURGH coach Richard Cockerill has made 11 changes to his starting line-up for tomorrow’s Champions Cup Pool 5 game against Toulon – a match which could see his team qualify for the quarter-finals.
The alterations start at full-back, where Blair Kinghorn comes in for Dougie Fife. Chris Dean and James Johnstone return at centre, Jaco van der Walt and Henry Pyrgos resume at half-back, and in the pack Jamie Ritchie and Bill Mata are the only two who keep their places from last week’s 38-0 league win over the Southern Kings. The two wingers, Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe, are the other pair retained.
Hamish Watson returns to the back row to play alongside Ritchie and Mata, with Luke Crosbie dropping down to the bench. Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally and Willem Nel all return to constitute a formidable front row.
Edinburgh will qualify as winners of Pool 5 if they beat Toulon (with or without a try bonus) and Montpellier lose to Newcastle. A draw between Montpellier and Newcastle will also be enough in most circumstances.
Edinburgh enjoyed an outstanding bonus-point win against Toulon at BT Murrayfield in the second round of pool games, but Cockerill expects the former champions to be a tougher proposition at the Stade Mayol. “We have to go and play our game,” the coach said after announcing his team. “They are a far better team at home and have improved hugely from the last time that we played them.
“This is what you coach for and it’s what you live for as a player as well. I have told the players not to worry, but to travel there with excitement. Let’s go and enjoy it, because one, we’re good enough to win if we get it right, and two, we’ll learn something about ourselves. We’ll know what it feels like and looks like to perform in those arenas and against those types of teams.
“We’d like to make a little bit of history on Saturday, but we’re well aware that it will take a lot of hard work and drive to achieve a positive result.”
Edinburgh (v Toulon at the Stade Mayol, Saturday 5.30pm British time, live on BT Sport): Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, Chris Dean, James Johnstone, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Bill Mata. Substitutes: David Cherry, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, Luke Crosbie, Nathan Fowles, Simon Hickey, Juan Pablo Socino.
Toulon: Mathieu Smaili; JP Pietersen, Mathieu Bastareaud, Francois Trinh-Duc, Julian Savea; Anthony Belleau, Rhys Webb; Jean Baptiste Gros, Guilhem Guirado, Emerick Setiano, Juandré Kruger, Romain Taofifenua, Stephane Onambele Mbarga, Facundo Isa, Raphael Lakafia. Substitutes: Anthony Etrillard, Xavier Chiocci, Marcel van Der Merwe, Jean Monribot, Louis Carbonel, Antoine Zeghdar, Yoann Cottin, Mamuka Gorgodze.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).