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'We had 46 players training the other day' - Mike Blair's selection headache

Edinburgh's Jamie Ritchis is tackled by Ernst van Rhyn during a United Rugby Championship match between Edinburgh and DHL Stormers (Photo by Bruce White/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair admits he was torn over team selection for their return to action after several players missed out on their big chance against Glasgow.


Henry Immelman, Blair Kinghorn and WP Nel will return from injury in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship fixture against Cardiff at the DAM Health Stadium.

Grant Gilchrist, James Lang and Jamie Ritchie are also available again for Edinburgh’s first game since beating Saracens on December 11.

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The likes of Lee-Roy Atalifo and Marshall Sykes were due to start the first of two postponed games against Warriors but are not in the 23-man squad for Saturday.

Blair – who has lost Darcy Graham, Cammy Hutchison, Luke Crosbie and Henry Pyrgos to short-term issues – said: “It’s a funny one because a large part of our planning and decision-making in selection is around giving as many people as possible the opportunity to play for the club.

“We had 46 players training the other day and they are putting it in for the jersey and showing what they can do, and we feel that merits opportunities.

“In those two games against Glasgow, some guys were going to get that opportunity through Covid cases or injuries and sadly we are not going to be able to select them for this game because we have got other guys coming back in.


“We had looked at the two Glasgow games and the London Irish and Brive games as potential opportunities to blood some guys and give them the opportunity within a stronger selection for us.

“We still hope that will be the case but, because the games are running out in this block, we don’t have to rest certain players.

“It’s a real difficult blend. I want to give guys opportunities who impress us week in, week out, but at the same time we have some quality personnel who need games as well.

“Probably a strength and a weakness of mine is my sensitivity around individuals, knowing what they are going through and knowing how frustrating it can be to train for six weeks and not get a game. I get that 100 per cent.


“That’s why I am pushing to get players involved but I also have to put winning games at the forefront of my mind.

“I also believe that rotating the squad a little bit, showing guys that if they train well and play well they get another chance, is important for the overall make-up of the group.

“The best game we have played so far is Dragons away when we had none of our internationals barring a couple of guys on the bench.

“Giving those guys opportunities to show what they can do will help build the club.”

Edinburgh still have some Covid issues but Blair, who could give Glen Young a debut off the bench, said: “We are just about there. We are able to put out a fairly full-strength team.

“It’s been pretty much a month so the guys are looking forward to getting out there.

“We had a bit of an internal hit-out game, we trained on New Year’s Day, the guys have just been getting on with things and preparing as best we can.”


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