THE good news came in twos for Edinburgh fans yesterday. No sooner had it been announced that flanker Jamie Ritchie was making his comeback in tonight’s pre-season match against London Scottish at the DAM Health Stadium after seven months out with a ruptured hamstring, than assistant coach Steve Lawrie was revealing that No.8 Bill Mata is also on the precipice of his first appearance since suffering a serious knee injury eight-months ago.

Ritchie will captain the side tonight and is one of four Scotland internationalists in the starting XV, alongside centre James Lang and second-rows Jamie Hodgson and Marshall Sykes.

“It’s brilliant to have Jamie back,” said Lawrie. “He’s a fantastic leader and he’s been excellent throughout pre-season. I’m really chuffed for him, and he’ll certainly lead by example. I know how excited he is to finally be back in an Edinburgh strip.

“He’s been training with us pretty much the whole of pre-season and has been able to improve himself physically without getting knocks. He’s looking really strong.”

“Bill’s back,” the Edinburgh forwards coach added. “He’s fully fit. He’s been training with the squad fully and he’ll be getting integrated in over the next wee while.

“I’m excited to get Bill back out there, as I know all the fans will be, and I’ll just say that he looks in really great shape just now, and he’s hungry and excited to get back playing for Edinburgh.”

“I also think he and Jamie not playing a lot last year has allowed other players to grow and get opportunities. So, we’ve now got more competition throughout the squad and particularly in that back-row, which is terrific.”

Meanwhile, Scots-qualified Nick Auterac is set to make his debut at loosehead prop (following a summer switch to the capital club from Northampton Saints), as is academy prospect Jacob Henry on the wing.

There are four more academy players named on a 19-strong bench, in the shape of hooker Patrick Harrioson, second-row Jamie Campbell, stand-off Cammy Scott and winger Finn Douglas.

Meanwhile, Scots-qualified Super6 men Connor Gordon (Stirling Wolves and initially from New Zealand), Kwagga van Niekerk (Watsonians and initially from South Africa) and Korie Winters (Southern Knights and initially from New Zealand) are also hoping for a chance to impress later in the match.

“For some of these guys, it’s their first taster of this so it’s about getting a little bit of early exposure,” said Lawrie. “For others, we need them to come through. They’ve been playing well in the Super6, and Jake [Henry] did well with the Scotland Sevens team at the Commonwealth Games this summer.

“We want these young Scottish boys to develop and if good enough they are old enough to play for Edinburgh Rugby. Competition breeds competition and I’m really impressed with how our young boys train and go out there to compete.”

There are a few familiar faces in the London Scottish line-up, including stand-off Nathan Chamberlain, who was released by Edinburgh at the end of last season, and centre Robbie McCallum, who moved south in the summer after not being offered a contract at the end of his three years in the Scottish academy programme.

“I remember when I played at Doncaster we had a pre-season game against Glasgow and I was really excited to take on Scottish opposition, so I know the motivation they will come up and play with because they want to do well, and a lot of them will want to put themselves in the shop window,” concluded Lawrie.

London Scottish were hammered 66-19 in a pre-season match against Harlequins last weekend.

Edinburgh Rugby (versus London Scottish at DAM Health Stadium in the Scottish Building Society pre-season friendly on Friday @ 6.45pm): H Immelman; J Blain, J Lang (VC), C Dean, J Henry; C Savala, C Shiel; N Auterac, A McBurney, A Williams, M Sykes, J Hodgson, J Ritchie (C), C Boyle (VC), B Muncaster. Replacements: J Jack, H Courtney, P Harrison, L Atalifo, D Gamble, J Campbell, P Philips, C Gordon, N Haining, K van Niekerk, H Pyrgos, B Vellacott, J van der Walt, F Douglas, C Hutchison, C Scott, M Currie, K Winters, D Hoyland.

London Scottish: C Anderson; N Ferdinand, H Hyde, R McCallum, J Gillespie; N Chamberlain, L Petrozzi; F Baxter, S Riley, J Rees, M Jurevicius, M Wilkinson, B Tuilagi, W Trenholm, C King. Replacements: C Terry, E Chilvers, S Gratton, A Southon, V Tuilani, D Nutton, H Shepherd, C Ingall, A Wallis, W Hobson, C Cleaves, C Slevin, E Hoadley.