ANY suspicion that Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill might not take tonight’s inter-city clash against Glasgow Warriors as seriously as you would ordinarily expect was put to rest yesterday lunchtime when he announced his team for the match.   

With a top of the table finish in PRO14 Conference B already secured, next Saturday’s play-off semi-final clash against Ulster might be the next event that really matters for the capital men, but taking his foot off the accelerator is not in Cockerill’s genetics.  

The Englishman, who has just signed a two-year contract extension with the club which will run through to the summer of 2023, has made 10 changes to the starting XV which ran out fairly comfortable winners against the same opposition last weekend, but the decision to keep four of his leading lights – Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata, Duhan van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn – in the side demonstrates that Edinburgh have no intention of meekly handing Glasgow a happy-ending to a generally disappointing season.  

Cockerill has also thrown star winger Darcy Graham and back-row powerhouse Magnus Bradbury straight back into the fray after they missed last week with minor injuries, meaning that there is an impressive core of steel and experience laced through the side, to support those youngsters who are being given a run-out such as half-backs Nathan Chamberlain and Charlie Shiel.  

“Everyone wanted to play because they feel the game time will do them good, and I wanted to put a side out that was competitive, rather than putting out a completely different 15 with young and inexperienced guys there, which would mean you are sending out a team to potentially get beaten quite heavily,” said Cockerill.  

“It is a good side capable of potentially winning the match, and there are risks [with injury] that you have to take. Leinster, Munster and UIster will be taking the same risks. We can manage some guys in-game but it is important that they get some game time.    

“Kinghorn needs to play,” the coach added. “He did some really good things at the weekend, but he’s a little bit short of match fitness. Darcy Graham hasn’t played at all yet, so he needs to play. Duhan is the same, we have to manage his workload during the week because he has some issues around being on his feet the whole time, so he needs to play to get match sharp.    

“Bradbury needs to play because he hasn’t. Mata and Watson are actually asking to play. If some of those guys do get injured it will be unfortunate but we have good enough cover to make sure that we are not overly compromised.”    

It is going to be a big night for Chamberlain. The stand-off was one of the stars of the Scotland Under-20s Six Nations campaign earlier this year whilst attached to the Bristol Bears academy and playing predominantly for Hartpury College, but this will be his first proper taste of the big time (apart from three minutes at the very end of last Friday’s match).    

The initial plan when he made the move to Edinburgh over the summer was for this to be a bedding in year, but when Jono Lance’s visa application fell through it left Chamberlain as the next cab off the rank behind Jaco van der Walt at No 10.  

“If you are going to play him in a game that has no consequence, effectively, this is the game, isn’t it?” shrugged Cockerill. "We need to see where he is at in his development, and if he comes through, which I’m sure he will because there are some really good bits about his game, it will be a really good experience for him against one of the international 10s for Scotland.   

“We are also keen to see how Charlie will run a game when he starts at scrum-half, and that is going to be a good challenge and more experience for him as we look to build more depth and keep developing our players in the next 12, 24, 36 months.”  

Cockerill added that he is not concerned that the recent coronavirus outbreak in the Ulster academy will impact the play-off match between the two sides a week on Saturday.  

“I don’t expect it to be an issue at all. You take the best precautions you can and trust the medical staff to do things correctly, and you isolate the guys who have an issue, and then you carry on,” he said.