Gordonians have a Carrick score to settle
Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has warned Newcastle Falcons his team will go into tonight’s Heineken Champions Cup clash against them at Murrayfield in confident mood after he welcomed 10 internationals back into his line-up.
Edinburgh lost 44-14 to Munster in the Guinness Pro14 last weekend but only two players have retained their starting places – South African pair Jaco Van Der Walt and Duhan Van Der Merwe, who grabbed two tries at Irish Independent Park.
Scotland internationals Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham, Henry Pyrgos, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson all return to action following the November internationals, which ended with victory over Argentina for their team. And Fiji number eight Bill Mata also comes back in after helping his country beat France two weeks ago.
Edinburgh have a 100% record at BT Murrayfield this season but they have lost all six games on the road. Cockerill believes they can continue the home success against the Falcons.
He said: “It’s been great to get everybody back in, for obvious reasons. They are all fit and well and ready to go. The lads who have been playing for Scotland should all be confident. When we’ve got our combinations right we’re as good as any team and I believe we can compete with any team in Europe on our day.”
Edinburgh sit second in Pool 5, two points behind group leaders Newcastle.
“We need to win,” Cockerill said. If you’re going to qualify out of the group, then you’re going to need to win three of the last four games at least to give yourself an opportunity.”
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards is expecting a stern test against Edinburgh.
He said: “We’ve had the beauty of winning both of our games in Europe so everything’s up for grabs in terms of how we can move on in this competition and it’s an important game for us. You know what you’re going to get from a side that’s coached by Richard Cockerill.
“He’ll have them drilled and up for it and in someone like Viliame Mata they have one of the best number eights in world rugby who has been playing some unbelievable stuff in recent months.” Gordonians captain Tom Williams is focused on ensuring his side’s stopstart month will not impact on their excellent unbeaten start to the season.
The Aberdeen side relinquished top spot last weekend after their trip to St Boswells had to be postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
The call-off was the third postponement in four weeks for the Gordonians team and, as they prepare to face Carrick at Countesswells tomorrow, Williams is hoping for two weekends of competitive rugby before the festive break.
He said: “It has been a frustrating month.
“When the fixtures were announced at the start of the season we were optimistic of having a good run of games before winter and if you had told us we would have three postponed games I doubt anyone would have believed you.
“It has been tough on the players.
“But we’re determined not to let it adversely affect us as we want to keep this run going.
“We train every week regardless but there is no doubt having a free weekend does have an effect but what we have to do is ensure it is minimal.”
Williams and his play- ers welcome a Carrick side which has managed to do something no other team has done in National 3 this season – deny the Aberdeen club victory.
The two t eams contested a thrilling 27-27 draw when they faced each other on September 15.
With Gordonians having won all 10 of their other league games, Williams is eager to set the record straight this weekend.
He said: “The boys are feeling good and we are ready for this one. Carrick caused us a lot of problems the last time we played them.
“We learned a lot about ourselves in the 27-27 draw and we want to show how much we’ve improved since then.
“You know what you are getting from Carrick.
“They ask questions of you and it will be another hard match, but every game is in this league.”