Fijian international prop Lee-Roy Atalifo makes his Edinburgh Rugby debut as the capital club host Cardiff Blues at Murrayfield this Monday. The inclusion of the 13-times capped Fijian tighthead is one of seven changes made by Head Coach Richard Cockerill following last weekend’s road win against Conference B rivals Scarlets.
With 23 first team players unavailable due to injury or international selection, Head Coach Richard Cockerill once again gives youth an opportunity, with seven academy or first-year pro players named in the matchday 23.
Winger Eroni Sau returns to the starting XV after missing last weekend’s match due to the birth of his child, while Nathan Chamberlain starts at stand-off with Jaco van der Walt unavailable for selection having this week returned to South Africa to get married.
David Cherry gets the nod at hooker following last week’s impressive performance from the bench at Parc y Scarlets that saw him named in the Guinness PRO14 Team of the Week.
Further changes to the pack see lock Andries Ferreira makes his first start for the club and paired with Jamie Hodgson in the second-row – as Lewis Carmichael and Andrew Davidson miss out through injury – while Luke Crosbie is once again fit and named at openside flanker.
Ahead of the fixture, Head Coach Richard Cockerill, said: “We were happy with a gritty and hard-earned win against Scarlets and the boys have backed it up with a tough week of training.
“Winning gives you confidence. Winning’s a habit, and we’re happy that we’ve broken the losing streak we were in and we can continue to develop as a squad as we prepare to face a really strong Cardiff outfit.
“They’re a good side, not missing a huge amount of players to Wales, so it will be a real test for us on Monday night.
“We obviously have a large number of players unavailable due to injury or on international duty, but that gives an opportunity to younger guys that will be keen to make an impact from the get-go.”
The return of Sau on the wing is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged back-three as Jamie Farndale and Jack Blain keep their place in the starting line-up.
Centres Chris Dean and Mark Bennett once again link-up in midfield, while stand-off Chamberlain – who makes just his fourth appearance for the capital club – and skipper Henry Pyrgos are named at half-back.
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A reshuffled front-row sees hooker Cherry pack down alongside props Pierre Schoeman and Atalifo, with locks Ferreira – a debutant last weekend – and Hodgson completing the tight-five.
Crosbie starts at openside flanker after missing out on the last three rounds of action through injury, with Ally Miller – who switches to No. 8 – and Magnus Bradbury forming the remainder of the pack.
Elsewhere, young prop pairing Sam Grahamslaw and Dan Gamble are named among the replacements and will make their Edinburgh Rugby debuts if called upon.
Edinburgh Rugby team to face Cardiff Blues
15. Jack Blain (3)
14. Eroni Sau (12)
13. Mark Bennett (41)
12. Chris Dean (95)
11. Jamie Farndale (10)
10. Nathan Chamberlain (3)
9. Henry Pyrgos (37) CAPTAIN
1. Pierre Schoeman (48)
2. David Cherry (25)
3. Lee-Roy Atalifo*
4. Andries Ferreira (1)
5. Jamie Hodgson (9)
6. Magnus Bradbury (81)
7. Luke Crosbie (42)
8. Ally Miller (16)
Replacements: 16. Mike Willemse (25) 17. Sam Grahamslaw* 18. Dan Gamble* 19. Marshall Sykes (1) 20. Connor Boyle (1) 21. Nic Groom (15) 22. Charlie Shiel (22) 23. James Johnstone (53)
Unavailable due to injury: Andrew Davidson, Matt Gordon, Lewis Carmichael, Viliame Mata, Grant Gilchrist, Damien Hoyland, Murray McCallum, George Taylor, Fraser McKenzie
Unavailable due to international selection: Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Nick Haining, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson, Darcy Graham, Blair Kinghorn, Duhan van der Merwe, Mesulame Kunavula
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