Preview: Edinburgh v La Rochelle

Date published: March 30 2017

Edinburgh’s acting head coach Duncan Hodge has made four changes to his side for Friday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against La Rochelle.

Hodge has made only one alteration to the backline with Jason Tovey coming in to start at fly-half in place of Duncan Weir.

Murray McCallum is set to start at loosehead prop for Allan Dell (concussion), while Grant Gilchrist is promoted from the bench to pack down in the second-row.

Hamish Watson returns to the side after a successful stint with the national team and is named in the number seven jersey.

“Games don’t come much bigger than a European quarter-final and there is no more thrilling an occasion than knockout rugby, so there’s a real feeling of excitement in camp,” said Hodge.

“We’ve taken some big scalps in this year’s competition and we’re confident in our ability to take another tomorrow night. We’ve played some exceptional rugby to finish top of a tough Challenge Cup pool and we’ll look to carry that form into the knockout stages.

“La Rochelle come to BT Murrayfield sitting at the top of the French league but this is a different competition and the first meeting of the clubs, so we’re looking forward to taking them on.”

Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland and Tom Brown start as the back-three, while Chris Dean and Phil Burleigh continue as the midfield pairing. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne remains at scrum-half.

Ross Ford will captain the side from hooker, with McCallum and Simon Berghan completing the front-row.

Anton Bresler continues in the engine room alongside Gilchrist, while Watson is joined in the back-row by Viliame Mata and Cornell du Preez.

Meanwhile, Top 14 pace-setters La Rochelle have named Zack Holmes at fly-half alongside Arthur Retière, with Pierre Aguillon and Paul Jordaan in midfield.

They continue with the experiment of playing centre Levani Botia in the back-row where he is joined by Kévin Gourdon and Romain Sazy.

Jason Eaton will captain the side from the second-row, with Victor Vito and Brock James experienced heads on the replacements bench.

Form: The two clubs have never met before in European competition. Edinburgh have reached the quarter-final stage of the competition for the second time in the last three seasons. In 2015 they made the final before losing to Gloucester. This is the second time La Rochelle have reached the knockout stage of the Challenge Cup. The current Top 14 leaders lost in the quarter-final to Clermont in 2011. Edinburgh have won their last 11 home games in the tournament. La Rochelle have picked up just two wins in their last nine games (losing seven) on the road, however, this is their first fixture on Scottish soil. Edinburgh have registered nine wins in their last 12 Challenge Cup matches against Top 14 opposition (losing three).

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Murray McCallum
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Kyle Whyte, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Viliami Fihaki, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Glenn Bryce

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Steeve Barry, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Eliott Roudil, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Arthur Retière, 8 Kévin Gourdon, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Jason Eaton (c), 3 Mohamed Boughanmi, 2 Jérémie Maurouard, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Lekso Kaulashvili, 19 Jone Qovu, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Alexi Bales, 22 Brock James, 23 Benjamin Noble

Date: Friday, March 31
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest (England), Simon McConnell (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)