Head coach Michael Bradley today named the Edinburgh Rugby team to face Glasgow Warriors in the opening leg of the 1872 Cup this Friday, but will deliberate further on the pivotal role of captain Greig Laidlaw for the derby clash at Scotstoun (kick-off 7.35pm).
Crucial to the decision is the availability of Scotland backs Nick De Luca (centre) and Lee Jones (wing), both of whom left yesterday’s training session with face and head injuries respectively.
James King and Dougie Fife have been bracketed as their understudies respectively, with the balance of the back line determining whether Piers Francis or Richie Rees will be named to partner Laidlaw at either scrum-half or stand-off.
Bradley said: “We’re considering the option of fielding Greig [Laidlaw] at nine rather than ten. The issue for us is the pending information on the availability of some key players that could play in the outside backs.
“It’s a matter of flexibility at this stage. We’ve trained with the various options in the past couple of weeks, so the boys know the systems, with the bearing on selection being whether or not Lee [Jones] and Nick [De Luca] are available.”
The west coasters have lifted the coveted cup – decided on the aggregate score from two festive outings at either end of the M8 – for the past three seasons, with the Murrayfield men targeting the 140th anniversary of the matches as far back as pre-season, while more recent goals have adjusted to include building on the consecutive RaboDirect PRO12 wins over Ospreys and Connacht.
Top try-scorer Tim Visser and inside-centre Matt Scott are welcomed back into the backline with ever-present Greig Tonks starting at full-back.
Allan Jacobsen and Willem Nel are preferred to John Yapp and Geoff Cross alongside hooker Ross Ford in the front-row, while Heineken Cup tied lock Izak van der Westhuizen returns to partner Grant Gilchrist.
The pack is completed by the back-row of Roddy Grant, Stuart McInally and the returning blind-side flanker David Denton.
Bradley added: “These derby matches are very important to the club, and our fans in particular are very excited about them.
“We obviously lost the series last year so, in my time here, we’re zero from one and I’d like to change that, giving us a very clear target over the next two weeks.
“Glasgow are seven points ahead of us in the league and there are at least eight points up for grabs from these two matches, which could change the dynamic of our title race.
“I think they’ll be very confident in their new home so it will be up to us to put pressure on them, get the win and take them back here and finish the job off at Murrayfield in front of our home fans a week later.
“We’ve won two games on the bounce in this competition and it’s important that we keep that going. Next on the list is Glasgow. There’s no doubting this is a massive game but, importantly, this is about championship points.”
The 1872 Cup will be decided in the second leg at Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 29 December (kick-off 4.05pm).
Edinburgh Rugby team to Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium
The 1872 Cup: Friday 21 August (kick-off 7.35pm) – live on BBC ALBA
15 Greig Tonks
14 Lee Jones/Dougie Fife
13 Nick De Luca/James King
12 Matt Scott
11 Tim Visser
10 Greig Laidlaw/Piers Francis
9 Richie Rees/Greig Laidlaw
1 Allan Jacobsen
2 Ross Ford
3 Willem Nel
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Izak van der Westhuizen
6 David Denton
7 Roddy Grant
8 Stuart McInally
16 Andy Titterrell
17 John Yapp
18 Geoff Cross
19 Sean Cox
20 Netani Talei
21 Richie Rees/Chris Leck
22 James King/Ben Atiga
23 Dougie Fife/Sep Visser
Absent through injury: Tom Brown (knee), Ben Cairns (hamstring strain), Jamie Farndale (leg), Ross Rennie (shoulder), Steven Turnbull (knee), George Turner (hip).