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Young players can salve Edinburgh wounds, says Alan Solomons

The details of his injury list might read like the script of a particularly harrowing episode of Casualty, but Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons insists that his players are in better shape to face the new season than they were at the same time last year.

Back then, when Solomons had only just taken the helm at the capital club, he made it crystal clear that he was unhappy with the way his players had been prepared for action over the summer months, complaining that their 'functional conditioning' was not up to scratch. However, as such matters are now entirely his responsibility, and have been for 12 months, the option of blaming a previous coaching regime is no longer available to the South African.

Against that, Solomons can hardly relish the prospect of being without Matt Scott and Dave Denton for the next few months, the two Scotland players being victims of shoulder and hamstring injuries respectively. He has also lost the services of Grant Gilchrist, albeit for a shorter period, as the lock recovers from an ankle operation. A host of lesser lights have also been ruled out for the next few weeks.

Those circumstances lend an unfamiliar look to the side Solomons has chosen to take on Leicester at the Greenyards this afternoon in the first of Edinburgh's two pre-season games. Of the starting line-up, only Dougie Fife, Tim Visser, Greig Tonks, Ross Ford, Roddy Grant and Cornell du Preez would have been recognised as first-choice players last season. The rest of the team is made up of new signings, players who have hitherto been peripheral figures and a couple of graduates from the club's development programme.

"I look at it as a positive thing," said Solomons of the restrictions he has been operating under. "It is a long season. Apart from Matt [Scott] and Dents [Denton], who are front-line players with long injuries, everyone is going to be back around mid to late September. This presents opportunities for other players, particularly our young players."

The most interesting of those is Chris Dean, the North Berwick 20-year-old who will form a midfield partnership with Andries Strauss, the veteran South African centre. Until recently, Dean was well on track towards forging a professional career in the back row, but he was offered a chance of a move into the backline while working with the Scotland sevens squad and has hardly looked back since.

For inspiration, might look to captain Ross Ford, who famously moved from the back row to hooker just over a decade ago and went on to appear in a winning Lions side in South Africa in 2009. There is also the example of Greig Tonks, whose transformation from full-back to fly-half with Edinburgh last season was a huge success, and who will be back in the No.10 jersey today after a lengthy injury absence.

While strains, knocks and niggles affect the body parts of so many Edinburgh players right now, the most persistent concern has been in the Achilles heel that has been the club's playmaking berth. Tonks will be given the first 40 minutes at the Greenyards, with new arrival Tom Heathcote expected to take over for the second half. The competition between the two players could be fascinating in the months ahead, but Solomons conceded that having a clear first-choice would be no bad thing either.

"You want a measure of consistency at 10, but you certainly need good backup," said the coach. "We have a competition here and one of them is going to come to the fore. Last season Glasgow had a rotation and that was understandable. You've got to keep your other 10 playing. The guys need to game time. You want depth in your squad so you can rotate and give opportunities. But, yes get, you do want consistency as well."

All five of Edinburgh's summer signings will start today. In the backs, Dean will be joined by Nick McLennan, the Scots-qualified full-back who joined from Hawke's Bay in New Zealand, while the forward contingent of newcomers is made up of props Rory Sutherland and John Andress plus lock Fraser McKenzie, who returns to the club after stints at Sale and Newcastle.

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