SINCE taking over as Edinburgh’s head coach in the summer, Mike Blair has insisted that the team would evolve gradually, building on the strengths of his predecessor Richard Cockerill rather than being subjected to a revolutionary overhaul.

Even so, the former Scotland captain’s first squad selection for a competitive match has a radical edge to it, above all at stand-off, where Blair Kinghorn retains the jersey for today’s home URC fixture against the Scarlets after an impressive dress rehearsal last week against Benetton.

Normally a full-back for Edinburgh, Kinghorn has slotted in on the wing for Scotland, and played a lot of his schoolboy rugby at 10. Being asked to play so many positions would perplex some players, but Blair is confident that the 24-year-old could excel in several other departments too, such is his versatility.

“Blair is multi-talented,” the coach said yesterday after naming his team for the game at the newly-renamed DAM Health Stadium. “If you look at the basics - catch-pass, running game, kicking game, defence - he’s got all those things, and he is fortunate that they go along with his physical attributes of being tall and quick. 

“We’ve talked about Blair in lots of different positions. He could do a good job at 13 based on the way he’s been able to defend on the wing and the skill set that he has.

“Probably a 6ft 4 scrum-half is the only position he couldn’t play. But he’s someone who has got a really impressive skill set and we just want to get those best players out on the pitch. He suits what we’re trying to do at the moment.”

There were certainly some encouraging glimpses of what Edinburgh are trying to do last week against Benetton, from new signings Ben Vellacott and Henry Immelman as well as established members of the squad such as Damien Hoyland.

Those three and the rest of the back division keep their places this afternoon, with the only two changes to the starting 15 being in the pack, where Lee-Roy Atalifo comes in at tighthead in place of Luan de Bruin and Bill Mata returns from injury at No 8. The Fijian takes over at No 8 from Nick Haining, who was himself injured last week. 

Jaco Van der Walt, the only senior specialist stand-off available to Blair, is on the bench, having missed out last week because of injury. Among those alongside him is lock Jamie Hodgson, who is also returning from a concussion sustained in the earlier defeat by Newcastle Falcons.  

Today’s game will provide a far more accurate gauge of where Edinburgh are than either of their two pre-season friendlies, but Blair is convinced that the players have already bought into his plans. “I’m confident in what we’re trying to do, and I’m confident the players know what we’re trying to do,” he added. “And I think I’ve definitely seen enough in the last couple of weeks to allow us to be in a good position to perform in the game.”   

Edinburgh (v Scarlets at DAM Health Stadium, today [Sat] 5.15pm): H Immelman; D Graham, M Bennett, C Hutchison, D Hoyland; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott; P Schoeman, S McInally, L Atalifo, M Sykes, G Gilchrist (captain), J Ritchie, L Crosbie, V Mata. Substitutes: D Cherry, B Venter, W Nel, J Hodgson, C Boyle, H Pyrgos, J van der Walt, J Lang.

Scarlets: J McNicholl; R Conbeer, J Davies (captain), S Williams, S Evans; D Jones, K Hardy; R Evans, R Elias, S Lee, A Shingler, S Lousi, B Thomson, D Davis, S Kalamafoni. Substitutes: M Jones, P Price, W John, T Price, T Phillips, D Blacker, S Costelow, I Nicholas.