Edinburgh's bid to kick-start their season under interim head coach Nick Scrivener begins with a trip to Dragons on Saturday.
Edinburgh's bid to kick-start their season and challenge for a place in the Magners League play-offs under interim head coach Nick Scrivener begins with a trip to Dragons on Saturday.
The visit to Rodney Parade is the first of three straight away fixtures (the others being against Munster and Scarlets) that represent a challenging start to life in the hot seat for Scrivener, who has been an assistant coach at the capital club since August 2009.
The former Australia A, ACT Brumbies and Canberra Vikings coach, who has led Scotland A to victories over Ireland Wolfhounds and Italy A in the past fortnight, wants Edinburgh to hit the ground running in southern Wales, and has challenged his players to show they have what it takes to win on the road.
“It's a crucial time in the season for us, and the players need to remember that our destiny is very much in our own hands,” said Scrivener.
“Our away form this season has not been good, but we now have a fantastic opportunity to confront that head on and put down a marker against the Dragons.
“The big focus this week has been tightening up all areas of our game, and letting it be known that we're looking to the players, and especially our leaders, to take charge at crucial times on the field and make sure everyone knows what we're doing, why and when.”
Scrivener's first selection as interim head coach sees 11 changes from the team that went down 21-14 to Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup on 22 January.
John Houston and Tim Visser, who missed that game through injury, return to the three-quarter line, while David Blair and Greig Laidlaw resume their half-back pairing.
There is an all-new front row, formed of Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly and Geoff Cross, and Fraser McKenzie comes in at lock. Stuart McInally starts at blindside flanker, with Netani Talei taking the number eight role.
Five players (Nick De Luca, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Mike Blair and Ross Rennie) are in the Scotland 22 for the game against Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday. Another, Scott MacLeod, was this morning summoned as precautionary cover for Richie Gray, who has been suffering from a stomach bug.
Craig Hamilton therefore takes the number four jersey for Edinburgh, with Esteban Lozada coming onto the bench.
Three other players (Chris Paterson, Laidlaw and Cross) who are part of the wider national squad for the Six Nations Championship have been selected for the Dragons game.
Laidlaw will skipper the side, Scrivener having decided to nominate his captain on a match-by-match basis for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile Dragons Assistant Coach Darren Edwards has rested full-back Martyn Thomas, who has a slight hamstring strain.
“Martyn could possibly have played at a push,” said Edwards.
“But we felt that it is important for him to be back long-term and at the moment we don't feel it's in his best interests to take any unnecessary risks.
“Competition for selection has been intense this week, and hopefully that'll be reflected in a strong performance.
“We're hoping to take our LV Cup form back into our Magners League campaign. We're at home this week but then we have three games on the road against Aironi, Glasgow and Munster.
“If we can come out on top in the next few fixtures we'll be in a strong position in the League going into the last part of the season.”
Form: Edinburgh have won just one of their last six matches against the Dragons: 43-3 at Murrayfield on 9 May 2009. Dragons' last four games in the Magners League have all been won by the home side on the day. Edinburgh Rugby have lost their last three matches in all competitions since beating Glasgow 28-17 on 2 January. Edinburgh have won just once away from home since December 2009: 10-9 at Aironi in the Magners League on 2 October, and have lost their last six games against Welsh opponents.
Dragons:15 Will Harries, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Matthew Watkins, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Andrew Coombs, 5 Scott Morgan, 4 Rob Sidoli, 3 Dan Way, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Hugh Gustafson, 18 Patrick Palmer, 19 Adam Brown, 20 Hugo Ellis, 21 Patrick Leach, 22 Mike Petri, 23 Matthew Jones.
Edinburgh:15 Chris Paterson, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Ben Cairns, 12 John Houston, 11 Tim Visser, 10 David Blair, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Netani Talei, 7 Alan MacDonald, 6 Scott Newlands, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Craig Hamilton, 3 Geoff Cross 2 Andrew Kelly, 1 Kyle Traynor.
Replacements:16 Alun Walker, 17 Lewis Niven, 18 David Young, 19 Esteban Lozada, 20 Roddy Grant, 21 James King, 22 Simon Webster, 23 Jim Thompson.
Date: Saturday, February 12
Venue: Rodney Parade
Referee: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Assistant referees: Colin Kirkhouse (Wales), Neil Hennessy (Wales)