After three tough away Magners League games in the space of 12 days, Edinburgh aim to exploit home comforts to the full when they return to Murrayfield for the first time in six weeks to face Cardiff Blues on Friday night (kick-off 7.30pm). The match is interim head coach Nick Scrivener’s first in front of the capital crowd, who will share his determination to gain revenge for the 21-14 defeat sustained against the same opposition in Edinburgh’s last home fixture on January 22.
Scrivener has made five changes to his team for a game he describes as a “vital opportunity to lay a marker for the rest of the season.”
Up front, Edinburgh welcome back tight-head prop Geoff Cross, who came off the bench to win his third Scotland cap in the RBS 6 Nations Championship match against Ireland last Sunday.
Esteban Lozada will line up in the second row alongside Steven Turnbull, while David Denton makes a first Magners League start for the club at blindside flanker. With Alan MacDonald and Roddy Grant both ruled out of this game through injury, Struan Dewar gets an Edinburgh debut at openside.
In the backs, Simon Webster will make his first tournament start of the season on the wing.
Scrivener confirmed: “Webbo has been fit and itching to get game-time for a couple of months now, but he’s had to show a degree of patience, mainly because of the form of our other wingers.
“He deserves this chance to show he can sustain over a longer period the sort of lively showing we’ve seen from him off the bench of late.
“The changes we’ve made in the pack are designed to see us get more from our front five. We want our big guys to really make an impact, particularly in contact, and the players we’ve brought in have the ability to do that.
“As we’ve seen on a number of occasions in the last couple of months, Geoff Cross is really coming on as a ball carrier and offers excellent leg-drive.
“Esteban Lozada is another who is at his most effective when focussed on his core role – being what you’d call a tight lock, hitting rucks, hitting opposition players and carrying the ball. He’s strong in the lineout in both an attacking and a defensive sense, and will complement Steven Turnbull well.
“We’ve decided to give David Denton a start because of the size, desire and energy that he brings to the table. There’s no doubt that he’s a raw talent, but he’s first and foremost a talent, and we want to exploit the ability that he offers in the here and now while continuing to work on him.
“I’ve been watching Struan closely with Heriot’s and the Scotland 7s team, and I’ve been impressed by his energy and all-round game. He’s confident on the ball and is a good link player. He’s also happy in the wider channels: he can offload and he can pass.”
Scrivener has demanded that his players give a rugby-starved Edinburgh audience reason to get behind them from the off.
He said: “It’s great to be playing in front of our own crowd after three games on the road, and we know we’ve got a responsibility to perform in a way that lifts them and makes clear the hurt we all feel about our recent results.
“All three of the Cardiff games to date this year have been typical of our season: we’ve competed well in patches but not over the 80 minutes. We’re looking for consistency of performance, both within games and from week-to-week. That’s the challenge to the players over these last six games of the Magners League regular season.”
Tickets for Friday’s game are available via www.edinburghrugby.org, by calling 0131 346 5180 or by visiting the Murrayfield Ticket Centre (just off Roseburn Street) in person. Book by 5pm on Thursday and save £5 on the standard adult admission price.
The Ticket Centre will be open from 9am on Friday for match-day sales and collections.
EDINBURGH TEAM TO PLAY CARDIFF BLUES IN THE MAGNERS LEAGUE AT MURRAYFIELD ON FRIDAY 4 MARCH (KICK-OFF 7.30PM)
15 Jim Thompson
14 Simon Webster
13 Ben Cairns
12 James King
11 Tim Visser
10 David Blair
9 Greig Laidlaw (CAPTAIN)
1 Lewis Niven
2 Andrew Kelly
3 Geoff Cross
4 Esteban Lozada
5 Steven Turnbull
6 David Denton
8 Netani Talei
7 Struan Dewar
16 Alun Walker
17 Kyle Traynor
18 David Young
19 Scott MacLeod
20 Scott Newlands
21 Ross Samson
22 Tom Brown
23 Andrew Turnbull
Not considered due to injury: Alex Blair (back), Chris Bloomfield (ACL), Fraser Brown (neck, in post-surgery rehabilitation), Grant Gilchrist (ankle), Phil Godman (knee), Roddy Grant (knee), John Houston (knee), Gregor Hunter (groin), Lee Jones (ankle), Alan MacDonald (shoulder), Stuart McInally (hand), Fraser McKenzie (hip), Ross Rennie (toe).