This weekend represents the final chance for Gregor Townsend and Alan Solomons, head coaches of Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby, to test out various combinations in a match situation ahead of the 2014/2015 season which starts in all earnest next weekend. Edinburgh played their pre-season friendly match last night against Newcastle Falcons in Hawick while Glasgow Warriors face London Scottish in London.
In last night’s match the final score was Edinburgh Rugby 21(11)/15 (10) Newcastle Falcons. Alan Solomons was pleased with the win as although it was only a friendly match they had gone into it with the mind-set of it being a competitive one.
Solomons, will be particularly pleased with the form of big winger Tim Visser who scored a brace of tries in the match. Visser, who spent a large part of last season on the sidelines injured, is a try scoring machine and will be vital to Edinburgh’s efforts in the coming season.
One area of concern for Solomons may possibly be the ability to punt the ball between the uprights as Greig Tonks missed various chances at goal. Tonks was shifted from fullback to the flyhalf position last year and while he has a good running game and a boming boot he will need to work on his accuracy. Fortunately for Solomons Scottish International flyhalf Tom Heathcote was recruited from Bath since last season. It will be in the best interest of Scottish Rugby, who are crying out for a top flyhalf to appear, for Heathcote to be getting as much game time as possible this season as he did not get nearly enough game time in his last two seasons at Bath.
In contrast to last season there was only one South African player in the entire twenty seven man squad. It appears Andries Strauss played the entire match, starting in the centre. One shouldn’t jump to conclusions that this indicates Edinburgh are shedding their so called ‘EdinBoks’ (or as I say EdinBoere) tag as there are still several players of South African origin at the club. Cornell du Preez is set to play a big role, probably at eighthman, in the abscence of injured David Denton while they can also call on the likes of injured trio WP Nel, Allan Dell, and Anton Bresler at some point. Wickus Blauuw and Carl Bezuidenhout are further players waiting in wings.
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 1 Rory Sutherland, 2 Ross Ford (Captain), 3 John Andress, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 5 Ollie Atkins, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Tomas Leonardi
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand on for Ford (62’), 17 Alasdair Dickinson on for Sutherland (40’), 18 Simon Berghan on for Andress (62’), 19 Ben Toolis on for McKenzie (65’), 20 Alex Toolis, 21 Magnus Bradbury on for Ritchie (75’) , 22 Grayson Hart on for Kennedy (65’), 23 Sean Kennedy on for Hidalgo-Clyne (40’), 24 Tom Heathcote on for Tonks (65’), 25 Phil Burleigh on for Beard (40’), 26 Joaquin Dominguez, 27 Nick McLennan on for Cuthbert (40’).
Gregor Townsend has picked quite a strong backline for the Warriors pre-season friendly match against London Scottish, most notably welcoming back Alex Dunbar who has been out for a while with injury. Dunbar is one of the top Scottish qualified centres and will possibly be earmarked to play alongside Matt Scott (once he is eventually over his injury) for Scotland. However, it will be interesting to see how he interacts with the youngster on his outside today, Mark Bennett who is a player that I rate highly for his ability to accelerate from standing and gain lots of ground as well as an ever improving distribution skill set. In fact one could be as bold as to say that the Dunbar/Bennett centre combination has the potential to develop into the best in the GUINNESS PRO12 this season.
As far as South African representation goes, today’s match sees a first start for new recruit Rossouw de Klerk at tight head prop. De Klerk came on off the bench in the second half last week in Glasgow’s friendly against Harlequins and by some accounts put in a fine performance. Townsend will be looking for another good performance from de Klerk in the build up to the start of the season, especially considering the ongoing unavailability due to injury of trio of props Jon Welsh, Mike Cussack and the British and Irish Lions Ryan Grant. Tyrone Holmes joins his countryman de Klerk in the starting pack, wearing the number 7 jumper while stalwart Josh Strauss is on the bench. One thinks that any game time that Strauss gets today should be fairly limited as he started last week and Townsend will probably want to give James Eddie a longer run as well as assess the abilities of young ,fellow benched lose forward, Will Bordill in a senior match situation.
Glasgow Warriors match against London Scottish kicks of at 3pm (4pm SA time) this afternoon.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Pyrgos (Captain), 1 Gordon Reid,
2 Kevin Bryce, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 4 Tim Swinson, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 6 Tyrone Holmes, 7 Chris Fusaro, 8 Adam Ashe
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Alex Allan, George Hunter, James Eddie, Will Bordill, Josh Strauss, Nikola Matawalu, Connor Braid, James Downey,