Edinburgh welcome the return of nine front-line Scotland internationalists for Friday's PRO12 clash with the Scarlets at Murrayfield.
Edinburgh welcome the return of nine front-line Scotland internationalists for Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash with the Scarlets at Murrayfield.
The players returned to training at the start of the week and have all been successfully re-integrated into the squad for the crucial match against a play-off-chasing Welsh outfit bolstered by the return of their Grand Slam-winning colleagues.
A lot is at stake for the clubs who will tackle some of France's finest in the last eight of European Cup competition the following week – Edinburgh against Toulouse at Murrayfield in the Heineken Cup and Scarlets against Brive in the Amlin.
“It's been great to have them back,” said coach Michael Bradley regarding the players' return.
“They're all quality players, so the biggest benefit has been the increased competition for places in the team, which has had a knock on effect on the quality and intensity of training.
“We've been working on re-emphasising our systems with the returning players in terms of how Edinburgh Rugby play in attack and defence. These are experienced professionals, they're used to this process, and they have come through it well.
“There's so much to play for because European knockout competition is just around the corner, so I expect Scarlets will travel strong.
“That, combined with a strong Edinburgh Rugby team, should make for a great match.”
Among the club's returning internationalists are prop Allan Jacobsen and winger Lee Jones who missed Scotland's final Six Nations match through injury but have returned to fitness.
Jones' return to start at wing sees Tom Brown move to full-back while Stuart McInally is selected at number eight with Netani Talei rested as a precaution due a back strain.
Meanwhile, the Scarlets will be looking to extend their three bonus-point wins in a row in the RaboDirect PRO12 league and fasten their grip on the running for a top four place in their last quartet of fixtures before the play-offs.
The Scarlets will face Edinburgh and Aironi away, followed by two huge Parc y Scarlets games to enjoy welcoming Munster and Cardiff Blues in the final chapter of a fierce and tightly fought competition this season.
With the Scarlets sitting in 6th on 50 points, Ulster on 50 points in 5th and Glasgow in 4th on 51 points – there are just three points separate third to sixth placed teams.
With every game until the end of the season is now a “must win” scenario for almost half of the teams in the RaboDirect PRO12, it will be nail-biting final run.
Edinburgh have lost their last seven RaboDirect PRO12 matches equaling their longest ever losing run in the tournament. Edinburgh's only home victory so far in 2012 came against London Irish in the Heineken Cup on 22 January. The Scotsmen have lost all six PRO12 games against the Welsh regions this season.
Scarlets have won their last three PRO12 encounters since losing at Leinster in February. Scarlets have won their last three clashes with Edinburgh, including a first ever victory at Murrayfield in this equivalent fixture last January when the West Wales visitors won 21-16.
“This is another very big game for us and will be very intense. We know Edinburgh and their returning Scottish internationals will be desperate to win after their recent run of form. We'll be coming up against a very focused side on their home turf and know the threat they pose – you don't get to a quarter-final in the Heineken Cup without knowing how to win matches,” said coach Nigel Davies.
“Our boys are in a very positive frame of mind and the return of the Grand Slam players has added to the energy in the group and it's been high impact in the camp during training this week. We know we have added fire power and options with the return of our international boys – and as coaches, we're really excited about the potential and ambition of this whole group of players.
“It's a big occasion again but the fact that we have everything to play for and that Edinburgh will be full on will help us in terms of getting it right. We're excited about the chance that confronts us in the league and that we're still in contention – and we're determined not to let any opportunities get away from us.”
Form: Edinburgh have lost their last seven RaboDirect PRO12 matches equalling their longest ever losing run in the tournament. Edinburgh's only home victory so far in 2012 came against London Irish in the Heineken Cup on 22 January. The Scotsmen have lost all six PRO12 games against the Welsh regions this season. Scarlets have won their last three PRO12 encounters since losing at Leinster on 17 February. The Welshmen have not won outside of Wales in the tournament this season. Scarlets have won their last three clashes with Edinburgh, including a first ever victory at Murrayfield in this equivalent fixture last January.
Edinburgh: 15 Tom Brown, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw (capt), 9 Mike Blair, 8 Stuart McInally, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 David Denton, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Kelly, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Jack Gilding, 19 Esteban Lozada, 20 Roddy Grant, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Jim Thompson.
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Jon Davies, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Kieran Murphy, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Matthew Rees (capt), 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil John, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Stephen Jones, 23 Sean Lamont.
Date: Friday, March 30
Kick-off: 19:35 BST
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Allan (Scotland), Graeme Marshall (Scotland)
Assessor: Fergus Neil (Scotland)