Duhan van der Merwe has joined Hamish Watson and Rory Sutherland – his fellow British and Irish Lions squad members – on Edinburgh’s injured player list, but head coach Richard Cockerill says he is confident that all three will be fit and ready to go by the time Warren Gatland’s touring party congregate in mid-June.  

Sutherland has been out of action since dislocating his shoulder whilst playing for Scotland against France in late March and continues to target a comeback in Edinburgh’s last game of the regular season away to Scarlets on 13th June, and Watson missed last week’s game against Glasgow Warriors with a tight groin but expects to be back to face Ulster on 5th June. 

Meanwhile, Van der Merwe played last week but will rest his tight back instead of facing Glasgow Warriors tonight. “He has to look after his body anyway, so it is a good opportunity to give him a rest,” reasoned Cockerill. “If it was the cup final he would be fit to play, but it is sensible in the circumstances that we give other guys a chance to get some game time.

“Hamish is getting a lot better, and he should be available to play against Ulster,” he added. “Whether Rory will be fit in time for Scarlets is yet to be seen, but his rehab has been very, very positive. If he is not fit for Scarlets, then we certainly expect him to be fit to join the Lions the week after.” 

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Cockerill also revealed that second-row Grant Gilchrist is facing a couple of months out of action with an ankle injury. “It will require surgery, so he won’t be available for the rest of the season and will miss the summer tour, but he will be available for the start of pre-season,” explained the coach. 

Jamie Ritchie is also missing with bruised ribs but is not expected to be out of action for too long. 

As for the players who are available, Blair Kinghorn will become the youngest player to make 100 appearances for the club tonight, and Cockerill insisted that neither Edinburgh nor Scotland have seen the best of the 24-year-old yet. 

“Blair is a fantastically gifted footballer, who reads the game very well and has a great skill-set, so if he can get a run of games uninterrupted and keep himself fit then he will get better and better,” he said. “He's got a good personality and I think there is a huge amount of talent that is still to come out of him. There is areas that he can improve on, and with game-time and opportunities at Test level he will become a better player.” 

It is also a big occasion for 21-year-old Australian-born, Scottish-qualified stand-off Charlie Savala, who has been given his second start for the club after impressing Cockerill with his up-and-at-'em attitude. 

“As we know he’s not played a lot of union in the last couple of years, but he’s got some talent and is a very confident young man,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how he goes again because he had a good stint against Cardiff until he went off injured.  

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“He was due to start against Zebre but had a back spasm a couple of days before. He’s been training well and the only way for him to improve is to put him in the firing line and see how he goes. 

“You just want guys to have a bit of devil about them, don’t you?” Cockerill added. “You want to see them get right into the middle of things and have a crack and not be sat in the shadows. You want guys to step forward. 

“All the young players coming through are the ones who have stepped forward and had a crack at the game. We just want them to show their natural personality and talent. There’s a real value to that. 

“Charlie is very comfortable around more senior players. He’s more Australian than Scottish in that way. If you’ve met any Australians, you’ll know they’re very confident in themselves. Which is a good thing. Just like us Englishmen! 

“A lot of the Scots coming through are a bit more reserved. That’s just their nature. Not all of them but as a generalisation they tend to sit at the back rather than pushing themselves forward and taking their opportunity by the scruff of the neck. 

“Young men need to work hard at their game, but they also have to be confident to go out and play and take their opportunity.” 

 

Edinburgh (v Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield, Saturday @ 7.35pm): B Kinghorn, D Hoyland, J Johnstone, C Dean, E Sau; C Savala, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, W Nel, M Sykes, J Hodgson, M Kunavula, L Crosbie, V Mata. Subs: M Willemse, B Venter, L Atalifo, A Miller, C Boyle, C Shiel, J Blain, G Taylor.