Edinburgh look to continue perfect home start as Bordeaux bring European challenge

Edinburgh assistant coach Duncan Hodge (pictured) and centre Matt Scott spoke to the media to preview their European Challenge Cup game against Bordeaux Begles following their round one win away to Agen last weekend. (Credit: Erin McRitchie)

 

Edinburgh Rugby will look to retain their 100% home record this season as they welcome the Bordeaux Begles to Murrayfield Stadium on Friday in the second leg of the European Challenge Cup.

The capital side come in to the fixture having beaten another French outfit, Agen, 31-10 last week, while Bordeaux – who are second in the French Top 14 – defeated Wasps 40-30 in a back and forth encounter.

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has handed Fijian internationalist Bill Mata his first start of the season after the No. 8s return from the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Mata also featured in Fiji’s side which took on the Barbarians at Twickenham Stadium last weekend.

Along with Mata, Cockerill rotates a further seven internationalists in to his starting 15. Blair Kinghorn starts at fullback, whilst the blooming partnership of Mark Bennett and Matt Scott is selected to start in the centre.

Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist – both club centurions – are the locks chosen to pack down in the boiler room, bolstered by Magnus Bradbury on the flank whilst Henry Pyrgos rounds out the international contingent as he captains the side from the scrum half position.

John Barclay, Jamie Bhatti and Simon Berghan hold the international caps on the bench, and having made his starting debut last weekend against Agen, Charlie Shiel drops out of the starting 15 to make way for Pyrgos.

Discussing his selections, Cockerill explained his side want to continue with their momentum on the back of their 31-10 win in the first round.

“We’ve made a number of changes to the starting line-up – bringing back plenty of experience across the board – and I expect us to perform on the night. We’re back at BT Murrayfield in front of our own supporters and we always want to do well at home.”

“We’ve had a really good training week and the boys are looking forward to the challenge,” Cockerill added.

Cockerill’s side still has a number of injuries, including leading figures Jamie Ritchie and Fraser McKenzie.

Also unavailable for selection is back row Nick Haining, as earlier this week he received a two week ban from the EPCR governing body following an independent disciplinary hearing into an incident in the Agen game where he is accused of striking Thomas Vincent with his head.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, Edinburgh assistant coach Duncan Hodge expressed his delight with his side’s performance in their opening European fixture of the season.

“We made a lot of changes and the most pleasing thing was that a lot of guys got some game time and we performed well both sides of the ball,” Hodge said.

Hodge believes there will be some rotation in the squad from that which was named to face Agen.

“Potentially there’s going to be some changes and the onus in a competitive squad is to stand up and earn or keep their places,” Hodge said.

Centre Matt Scott will be one of those players rotated back in to the squad. Places in the centre have become extremely competitive this season as players like George Taylor, Chris Dean and James Johnstone look to challenge Matt Scott and Mark Bennett’s blossoming centre partnership.

“You just have to look at how well those guys have played when they have come in. It is a testament to the depth of the squad now that we can send a team last week that got a bonus point away in France,” Scott said.

“That’s difficult no matter what the opposition is, but these guys can step up another and play at that level. I think it is great and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Scott also considered how fixtures against the French sides seem to bring out the very competitive best in Richard Cockerill’s team.

“You only really think about it when somebody tells you that, and then you think, ‘Oh, yes, we have been good against French teams.’ I think the last couple of times we’ve played them we’ve just tried to keep the tempo high.

“Historically, they are big, heavy teams, big men and we try to move them around a bit. That has tended to work for us the last few times we’ve done it.

“Montpellier, Toulon, with bigger names in European rugby than our star players, I think it brings out the best from us. Same again this week against Bordeaux. They have some outstanding individuals, so it will be the same. We will all be wanting to test ourselves against these guys.”

Edinburgh will kick off against the Bordeaux Begles at 7:35pm, Friday 22nd November at BT Murrayfield.

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