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Guiness Pro 14 Preview: Edinburgh

Edinburgh has always been the cast-off team in Scotland. Richard Cockerill is looking to change that as the new head coach. Although it would seem that Scotland has had no intention of developing Edinburgh into a competitive team, his hiring may be a change in their mindset.

Edinburgh finished 9th last season with only six wins. Edinburgh had moments of brilliance, with an early win over eventual series champions Scarlets. The also managed a home win against Stade Francais and to win both matches against Harlequins in the Challenge Cup pool matches. Those brilliant moments were countered by a zero try loss to Benetton Treviso late in the season.

Squad

The off-season started off with some very strong signings shortly after the hiring of Cockerill.

Mark Bennett-

Bennett’s contract may pay off eventually, but he is not able to play due to injury from last season as of yet. Once he is healthy, he will be challenging for a starting position immediately. During his five years with Glasgow, he had 55 caps and 22 tries. He has also had 20 caps for Scotland with six tries. He will be a much-needed attacking addition for the team. Chris Dean’s position in the starting XV will be highly contested once Bennett makes his return.

Robbie Fruean-

Fruean came to the northern hemisphere from his native New Zealand to sign with Bath Rugby. Prior to that, he spent six years with the Crusaders in Super Rugby as well as short-term deals with the Hurricanes and Chiefs clubs. It seems that there is a big push to bring a faster back five with Edinburgh. He will be an interesting person to watch against Phil Burleigh for the number 12 shirt.

Jason Harries-

Former London Scottish player Jason Harries will be coming in to hopefully fill the hole left by Rory Scholes. He is an older player and this will be his first shot in top flight rugby.

Darryl Marfo-

Another signing from Bath, Marfo has been playing in the Premiership since 2011, with one brief stint last year with the London Welsh. He will add some much-needed depth to an Edinburgh squad that is very light at loosehead prop due to many injuries at the position.

Duhan van der Merwe-

South African winger van der Merwe spent last season plying his trade in the meat grinder of the Top 14 with Montpelier. At 22 years old, Duhan has not had a lot of play time with Montpelier or the Bulls in South Africa. It will be good to see if his talent pays out.

Expected Starting XV

  1. Allan Dell- 39 caps. Although he will be unavailable at the beginning of the season due to injury, once he comes back the loosehead prop position will be his. Allan Dell was called to New Zealand during the summer to join the British and Irish Lions tour. He ended up getting a cap during the Chiefs game. He was the only Scottish forward on the British and Irish Lions tour this year.
  2. Ross Ford- 175 caps. Ford has been a staple with Edinburgh for a long time, no change expected here.
  3. WP Nel- 103 caps. After injury kept him from being picked for the Lions tour this summer, Nel will be looking to get back in the game this fall.
  4. Fraser McKenzie- 80 caps.
  5. Ben Toolis- 69 Caps.
  6. Magnus Bradbury- 31 caps.
  7. Hamish Watson- 72 caps. Watson has been a tremendous player for Edinburgh since bursting on the scene two years ago. Expect another year of great things from arguably Edinburgh’s top player.
  8. Cornell Du Preez- 79 caps.
  9. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne- 82 caps. This position is dependent on if he is able to impress the new head coach. Last season, he was not very impressive and resulted in other scrum halves getting a good piece of playing time.
  10. Duncan Weir- 20 caps.
  11. Tom Brown- 108 caps.
  12. Phil Burleigh- 60 caps.
  13. Chris Dean- 42 caps.
  14. Damien Hoyland- 48 caps. Hoyland has been an absolute staple for Edinburgh the past two seasons. He started 24 of 29 matches last year and had 19 starts the previous season.
  15. Blair Kinghorn- 42 caps.

Coaching

Alan Solomons stepped down as head coach of Edinburgh only four weeks into last season leaving the rest of the season to Duncan Hodge. It was announced in the late winter that Richard Cockerill would take over as head coach starting this upcoming season.

Richard Cockerill was Leicester head coach from 2009-17. He led the Leicester Tigers to two Premiership titles in his time there. The Tigers had taken a slight down turn in recent years, and in January of this year, it was announced that Cockerill was being fired from his position. He then took a position on the coaching staff of Toulon temporarily through the end of the Top 14 season. He was able to lead Toulon to the Top 14 final following a horrible start to their campaign.

Richard Cockerill is a very talented head coach that will be able to bring a much more intense brand of Rugby to Edinburgh. He will not be starting off with as many weapons as he had at Leicester, but he can build them. If he can take and turn a team such as Edinburgh around, his place in coaching history will be legendary.

Schedule

Edinburgh’s schedule, all things considered, is not too bad. They have difficult spots such as home and away against Leinster, Ulster, and Scarlets. They are also afforded home matches against Munster and Ospreys. Their three matches against Glasgow are stacked two home, one away.

Outlook

This year for Edinburgh is one giant question mark. Richard Cockerill seems to be coming in with a full head of steam and has no problem speaking his mind. If he can take and apply that attitude to his players, there is room for drastic improvement this season. It is still highly unlikely that Edinburgh is going to see an immediate rise to greatness from the introduction of Cockerill, it is possible. Connacht showed everyone two years ago that the right coach can take any team to the very top.

This year is about building the foundation for a gradual and sustained rise for the Edinburgh team. If they can manage to finish in the top 8 with the recent expansion, this season should be considered a success.

 

 

Pro 14 Previews:

Connacht

Cardiff Blues

Zebre

Ulster

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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