Head coach Rob Moffat has stressed the importance of Edinburgh continuing their flying start to 2011 with a win over Scarlets at Murrayfield on Saturday (kick-off 6.30pm) as the capital club enter a crucial phase of the season.
This weekend’s showdown with the men from Llanelli comes hot on the heels of a 28-17 success in the second Greaves Sports 1872 Cup derby against Glasgow Warriors, and kicks off a run of vital encounters in both the Magners League and Heineken Cup.
After the visit from Scarlets, Edinburgh head into back-to-back European games away to Northampton Saints and home to Cardiff Blues, before facing up to Newport Gwent Dragons, Munster, and Scarlets again on domestic business. Each of these three Magners League dates comes away from home.
Moffat today underlined the significance of this week’s match to the campaign as a whole. He said: “We’re delighted to come into the Scarlets game on the back of a good win against Glasgow, and while we certainly take a lot of confidence from that result, it’s vital everyone understands that this is another huge challenge.
“It’s the first of a number of massive tests coming up over the next few weeks and it’s crucial that we establish momentum to take into those other matches.
“Scarlets are a challenging team to play against; they play a positive brand of rugby and ask a lot of questions of your defence. We’ll need everyone to front up as well as they did in the Glasgow win, and we’ll also need to show the same level of ambition and threat in attack.
“It was a tight game the last time Scarlets came here [Edinburgh winning 24-20 in the Magners League in March 2010], and I’m sure Saturday will be no different. We need a strong set piece to give us the right sort of platform to attack from, and we’ll have to be aggressive and alert in defence.”
Moffat has made six changes to the side that claimed a sixth win in seven home games against the Warriors last Sunday. Chris Paterson, who missed both Greaves Sports 1872 Cup matches with a shoulder injury, returns at full-back and will captain the side, with usual skipper Roddy Grant rested for this encounter.
Elsewhere in the backs, centre Nick De Luca makes his first start of the season, while Scotland and British and Irish Lions scrum-half Mike Blair replaces Greig Laidlaw, having recovered from an elbow complaint.
Scott MacLeod, meanwhile, comes back into the second row after sitting out the second Glasgow game through suspension. Alan MacDonald replaces Ross Rennie at openside flanker and Stuart McInally starts at six in place of Grant.
Moffat continued: “It’s great to have Mossy [Paterson] ready for this match, and we’re also delighted that Nick is now in a position to be starting games and bringing his influence to bear.
“The switches in the back row are pretty easy to explain, in that Roddy and Ross have both played a lot of big games recently while Stuart and Alan have been champing at the bit to be more involved. It’s a good chance for both those guys to really stake a claim, and they’re certainly very good rugby players.
“As a group, we’re all very much looking forward to Saturday’s game and the chance it offers to keep moving forward. I’d like to put on record our appreciation for great support our crowd gave us against the Warriors, and we hope to see as many of them as possible again this week.
“Late on in the Glasgow game when we were on the back foot, it was fantastic to hear that backing and it really kept the boys going. It would be great to get another big crowd and another positive result on Saturday.”
Tickets for Saturday’s game are available online, via www.edinburghrugby.org, by calling 0131 346 5180, or by visiting the Murrayfield Ticket Centre (off Roseburn Street) in person. The Ticket Centre will be open from 4.30pm on Saturday for match-day sales and collections.
15 Chris Paterson
14 Lee Jones
13 Nick De Luca
12 John Houston
11 Tim Visser
10 David Blair
9 Mike Blair
1 Allan Jacobsen
2 Ross Ford
3 Geoff Cross
4 Scott MacLeod
5 Fraser McKenzie
6 Stuart McInally
8 Netani Talei
7 Alan MacDonald
16 Andrew Kelly
17 Kyle Traynor
18 David Young
19 Craig Hamilton
20 Scott Newlands
21 Greig Laidlaw
22 James King
23 Simon Webster