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ScotlandWhen he took to the field as Scotland cap number 1 073, Josh Strauss became the 50th player to make his debut for the national side since the last Rugby World Cup in 2011. This is by far the highest number of new players for Scotland in any Rugby World Cup cycle – more, in fact, than the previous 2 combined (48 new caps). It requires going back to the 1950s to find a greater number of 1st caps in a 4 year period.

Despite having the smallest player base of any of the Six Nations, Scotland has had more debutants than any of their rivals:

  • England – 41
  • France – 40
  • Ireland – 37
  • Italy – 31
  • Wales – 37

In fact only 1 side who competed at this year’s Rugby World Cup awarded more new caps in the last 4 years. By a quirk of the global calendar Argentina didn’t have access to many of their 1st (or even 2nd) choice players when the South American Championship takes place and 54 of their 67 new caps (including 24 in the space of 5 days in 2013, the last year they appeared in it!) debuted in the annual iterations of this tournament.

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Edinburgh RugbyAs Edinburgh take to the home turf tomorrow (Friday 13 November) to meet FC Grenoble in the opening Round of this season’s European Challenge Cup (kick-off 19:30 UK Time, 21:30 SA Time), they will be led out by the player endearingly referred to by his team-mates as the ‘squadfather’, prop Alasdair Dickinson, who reaches his 100th cap for the club.

Meanwhile in the pack, at openside, John Hardie will be making his debut in the black and red jersey, after signing for the club last month following his Scotland debut at No 7 in the Rugby World Cup.

Loosehead Dickinson joins hooker Ross Ford and tighthead WP Nel in an unchanged front row, with Anton Bresler and Alex Toolis maintaining their partnership from last week at lock.

Mike Coman captains the team again at blindside with Hardie making his debut at openside and Cornell Du Preez retaining the No 8 jersey.

Meanwhile there is 1 change in the backs with Dougie Fife moving up from the bench to start at fullback. Damien Hoyland and Tom Brown stay on the right and left wings respectively while last week’s try scorer Will Helu and Matt Scott remain at outside and inside centre. The halfback pairing of Greig Tonks at flyhalf and scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is also retained.

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Andy Nicol

Pundit Andy Nicol during his playing days

Former captain Andy Nicol believes it is “inevitable” that some of Scotland’s Rugby World Cup squad will join Dave Denton in moving from the country.

Denton has joined Bath from Edinburgh after the English Premiership club paid a transfer fee for the 25-year-old.

“That’s what happens at a World Cup,” said Nicol, the former scrumhalf who captained Bath. “You perform well and the big cheque books may open for you. That’s what happens to the Georgians and the Japanese.”

Nicol says Scotland’s run to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals will have alerted clubs to Scottish players.

“You could get somebody here much cheaper than somebody who is established,” he said.

“It’s inevitable that we lose a few players and Dave Denton is the first.”

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David Denton

David Denton

Bath have signed Scotland loose forward David Denton from Edinburgh.

The arrival of Denton helps the Premiership club cover the departure of Sam Burgess, who left to return to rugby league last week.

Denton, 25, has 32 Scotland caps and appeared in 4 Rugby World Cup games earlier this year.

“We’ve been looking to bolster our back row for some time now so we’re very excited that David is joining us,” said Bath head coach Mike Ford.

Born in Zimbabwe, Denton played for Eastern Province in South Africa before moving to Scotland.

“He had an excellent World Cup, especially in the quarterfinal when he managed to outshine one of the best Australian back rows I’ve seen for a long time,” added Ford. “He’s going to fit in very well with the team and the way we play here.”

Denton made 78 appearances for Edinburgh following his arrival in 2010, and can switch between blindside flanker and No 8.

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RBS20A Scots rugby fan spoke of his anger after he was refused the sale of a scarf at the official Rugby World Cup store because he had a Scottish £ 20 note.

Peter Mechan had gone to see the Fiji vs Uruguay match on Tuesday and decided to browse the merchandise store for a souvenir.

He picked out a scarf and tried to pay with a Scottish £ 20 note he’d picked up on a recent visit to Edinburgh, but he said he was left “insulted” and upset when staff said they were not allowed to accept his cash.

Peter, 52, a senior IT project manager who lives in Milton Keynes, later returned to the store to try again and filmed his confrontation with the shop staff.

And after posting the video to Facebook, it was shared more than 4 500 times and scored 156 000 views in just 15 hours.

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ScotlandThe Scotland team and the 2 Scottish PRO12 teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, were in action this weekend playing warm-up matches.

Scotland faced Italy for the 2nd weekend in a row in the 3rd of their 4 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches. The game was played at Murrayfield in front of what was said to be a record crowd for a summer Test match. The team that ran out must have been close to Vern Cotter’s 1st choice 15 and they did not disappoint running in 6 tries and only conceding 1 in a very impressive performance.

WP Nel put in a solid performance which saw Italy’s scrum in trouble from the word go. The pressure Nel put on Italy’s loosehead prop earned Scotland a few penalties with the loosehead resorting to scrumming in on various occasions.

The next game of the day also took place in Edinburgh where the hosts took on Ulster in a preseason warm-up match, 1 week ahead of the start of the PRO12 for 2015 / 2016. The game was played at Heriot FC’s ground Goldenacre due to the Test match which was played earlier in the day at Murrayfield.

Head coach Alan Solomons would have been pleased to see his team get their 2nd win in their 2nd preseason friendly match against what was a fairly strong starting Ulster line-up.

The final game of the day, which was billed as the ‘Battle of New Scotland’, saw Canada host Glasgow Warriors in Halifax Nova Scotia.

Josh Strauss played the whole game for the Warriors ahead of possible inclusion in the Scotland World Cup squad. Former Glasgow Warriors winger DTH vd Merwe scored a try for Canada late in the game to ensure victory for them. The game was played in quite high temperatures and there were a few water breaks during the game.

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Roddy Grant

A team of 28, captained by flanker Roddy Grant, has been announced for Edinburgh Rugby’s opening pre-season friendly against Romania at the Greenyards tonight (Friday 21 August, kick-off 18:30 UK Time, 19:30 SA Time).

Bolstering the backs for this season, Edinburgh Rugby announce the signing of winger Otulea Katoa on a 1-year deal.

The Tongan international, who arrived in the capital earlier this week with his wife and 1-year-old son Eli, will bulk up the backs with a number of players involved with Scotland throughout the year.

The 24-year-old, who has been capped 7 times by Tonga, most recently represented his country in July’s Pacific Nations Cup and has been signed from New Zealand provincial side, Southland.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro

The Scottish Rugby Union is set to spend a 6-figure fee to sign powerhouse Fijian-born wing Taqele Naiyaravoro, with the aim of making him eligible to play for Scotland after a 3-year residency period.

Naiyaravoro, who has been compared to All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, declined to comment on reports he had signed with Edinburgh, but Waratahs CEO Greg Harris said the Fijian-born powerhouse had a contractual obligation to the Scottish team.

This clause in the contract states that if the Australians call him up for international duty, he will remain in the Southern Hemisphere.

According to reports in Australia, New South Wales Waratahs wing Naiyaravoro has been allocated to Edinburgh as part of a 3-year deal worth AUS $ 1 million to the 23-year-old.

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European Rugby Challenge CupEdinburgh welcome fullback Greig Tonks back into their side for tonight’s European Challenge Cup final against Gloucester.

He is 1 of 2 changes made by head coach Alan Solomons, who also brings Cornell Du Preez in at eighthman.

Greig Laidlaw, who was 1 of a number of players rested for Gloucester’s Premiership fixture against Newcastle, returns to face his former club.

Billy Twelvetrees captains the Cherry and Whites, while Richard Hibbard and James Hook also come back in.

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WP Nel

WP Nel

At the end of a trying season of provincial rugby under the sweltering South African sun, Willem Petrus Nel trudged exhausted from the field.

He turned to his coach and mentor, Pierre Ribbens, a distinguished ex-prop for the Bulls in what is now the Super 15 competition, the cream of the Southern Hemisphere game.

“I think I’m done with rugby – I don’t want to play anymore,” he said.

In late 2008, the 22-year-old tight-head had completed his agricultural studies, his certificate signed and stamped. From university some 250 miles to the south, the pull of home, the sheep farm he had been raised tending and the rolling mountains of the Northern Cape was strong.

“Give me a week,” replied Ribbens.

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Sam Hidalgo-Clyne

Edinburgh clinched a place in the European Challenge Cup Final in emphatic style at BT Murrayfield to make history as the 1st Scottish side to reach a European final.

The Scottish capital side stormed to their largest victory in Europe with a rousing 45 / 16 triumph over Newport Gwent Dragons with scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne helping himself to another record 25 points. Now they go on to face either Gloucester or Exeter Chiefs at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday 1 May.

Hidalgo-Clyne once again proved their star-turn with a try in his club record 25-point haul that took his tally in Europe this season to 91 points. That makes him the highest scorer in the tournament.

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Edinburgh RugbyEdinburgh Rugby’s players are in open revolt against their managing director, David Davies, after he sacked the long-serving team manager. Lynsey Dingwall was a popular and efficient member of the backroom staff at Edinburgh Rugby yet she was given an hour to clear her desk after working at the club for 14 years.

The players sent an email to the board and the council of the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) which Scotland on Sunday has seen. In the missive, sent on 23 March, the players offer their full support to Dingwall.

“We feel the dismissal of Lynsey Dingwall was unfair and unjustified,” the e-mail reads. “Lynsey was part of Edinburgh Rugby for 14 years. Over that period she worked tirelessly with and for the players and was hugely respected within the organisation. Numerous past coaches and players have commented that she was the best team manager that they have ever worked with. We feel she has been the victim of a personal attack.”

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Nasi Manu

Nasi Manu

Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu has signed for Scottish club Edinburgh and will leave at the end of the current Super Rugby season.

Manu has played 53 games for the Highlanders and has been co-captain with Ben Smith for the last 2 seasons.

“Believe me it was a very hard decision to leave the Highlanders, my team mates, my friends and family. This place, this team, it gets under your skin, becomes part of you and I will always treasure my time here” said Manu.

“Obviously I want to go out on a good note and I am keen to finish off my time here really successfully and that’s my focus at the moment.

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ScotlandHugh Blake has become the latest player to join the Kilted Kiwi brigade, joining his fellow countrymen Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland in the Scotland squad. It came as a big surprise to see Blake’s name on the team sheet as the Junior All Black and Highlander, now getting his first call up to a Scotland squad, only joined Edinburgh in December last year.

He played in an ‘A’ team fixture for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors on 22 December and had to leave the field injured, suffering from concussion following a knock to his head which knocked him out for a bit. Flanker Blake (1.87m and 102kg) has yet to appear for the senior Edinburgh team and what makes his inclusion even more baffling is that he was introduced as being recruited for a trial period on his arrival in Edinburgh.

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1872 CupThe festive season continues with derby matches in Round 12 of the Guinness PRO12. Some of the matches are the return leg of derbies played around the Boxing Day period. The attention in Scotland will be focussed on BT Murrayfield on Friday night where Edinburgh will host their rivals from the west, Glasgow Warriors, in a PRO12 fixture that doubles up as the second leg of the 1872 Cup.

Glasgow Warriors go into the game with a 10-point advantage following their win over Edinburgh on Boxing Day and will be looking to retain what is said to be the oldest cup in club rugby, yet again. There was only 1 try scored in the first leg of the 1872 Cup last week and with blustery conditions likely for Friday night the game may be a low scoring battle of attrition that could go the way of the team that makes the least errors.

Considering the relative positions of the 2 teams on the PRO12 table and the fact that Glasgow go into the game with that 10- point cushion one should expect at the very least that they maintain their grip on the 1872 Cup.

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Commonwealth Games 2014The rugby year has not pegged out just yet but, even before the first of the thunderous 1872 Cup clashes between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the sport seems to have lapsed into reflective mode.

So, too, your correspondent, croaking towards 2014’s finishing line in a clapped-out but generally contented frame of mind. So when the stockings have been hung, I shall allow myself a few moments of rheumy-eyed and entirely random reflection on what made this twelve-month memorable .

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TrevisoEdinburghSam Hidalgo-Clyne showed his promise in an Edinburgh shirt from minute one as he scored his first Guinness PRO12 try for the club in a thumping 48-0 victory over Treviso.

The 21-year-old, who has featured predominantly off the bench for Edinburgh this season, went over inside a minute, with Mike Coman, WP Nel, Grayson Hart, Roddy Grant and Dave Denton also touching down in the bonus-point win.

Treviso finished the game with 14 men after Romulo Acosta was shown a straight Red Card for punching, while the result means they are still without a win in this season’s competition.

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Greig Tonks

Greig Tonks

As Edinburgh strive for four wins from four in Europe this Sunday, Greig Tonks will be running out for his 50th cap for the club.

There are seven changes to the starting 15 that beat London Welsh in the opening double-header, at BT Murrayfield last Sunday. Jack Cuthbert comes in at fullback with Dougie Fife, a late injury withdrawal last weekend, returning on the right wing.

A changed halfback pairing sees Greig Tonks at flyhalf and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne in the scrumhalf berth.

Meanwhile in the pack, with Ross Ford still out, Neil Cochrane gets a start at hooker, while John Andress and Anton Bresler move up from the bench to start at tighthead and lock respectively.

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EdinburghGlasgow WarriorsEdinburgh head coach Alan Solomons believes that his squad has got through the worst of an injury crisis which threatened to engulf the team just a few short weeks ago.

Edinburgh flew to Milan ­yesterday then took a 75-mile bus ride to Parma, ahead of ­facing Guinness Pro12 strugglers Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile tomorrow afternoon.

It may have been an arduous trip but Solomons was in good fettle – despite Edinburgh still being without several leading players, including Grant Gilchrist (broken arm), Hamish Watson (knee) and Cornell du Preez, who is set to miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.

Solomons said that the ­Autumn Tests came at just the right time for other leading players to recover and he is ­excited about his team’s chances of climbing into the top six of the Pro 12 table, which would qualify them for the Champions Cup next season.

Edinburgh returned to action in fine style last Sunday when they defeated Cardiff Blues at home, and they will fancy their chances against a Zebre side which was hammered 43-3 by Connacht on Friday night.

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Omar Mouneimne

Omar Mouneimne

Edinburgh confirmed on Tuesday that due to personal reasons Omar Mouneimne has had to leave the Pro12 outfit to return to South Africa.

“We are sorry that Omar has had to return to South Africa to deal with some personal issues,” Edinburgh coaching boss Alan Solomons said.

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ScotlandPrior to the test match between Scotland and the New Zealand All Blacks we featured a piece which suggested that we would like to see wholesale changes to Scotland’s team to face Tonga this coming Saturday. In short the reasoning was that in picking a team with as many players who ply their trade outside Scotland as the two professional teams under Scottish Rugby Union’s control would be aided in their PRO12 efforts, with Glasgow Warriors being the main benefactor. Remember Glasgow Warriors play against Welsh team Llanelli Scarlets in the Guinness PRO12 on Friday night while Edinburgh host Cardiff Blues on Sunday.

There would also be the benefit of  head coach Vern Cotter and his coaching team being able to work a bit more with exiles and assess their abilities in the heat of battle in the Test match, bearing in mind that the last Test match of Scotland’s summer tour (June Internationals) was played outside the international window, so he didn’t have the chance to play any of the non Scotland based players then.

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EdinburghEdinburgh Rugby secured their second successive victory in the European Rugby Challenge Cup, beating Lyon 25-17 at BT Murrayfield, after numerous injury setbacks and losing five players in the opening quarter.

Coach Alan Solomons afterwards praised the character of his Edinburgh side, who came through adversity to record a morale-boosting victory.

“This actually tops it [last week’s win at Bordeaux]. To lose five players like that – in 37 years, I’ve never seen anything like it – speaks volumes for the strength of character of this side.”

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EdinburghThe hosts Ulster secured a bonus point win at Ravenhill on Friday evening as a lacklustre Edinburgh side failed to score any points.

“In the second half we had nine penalties against us and the two tries that killed us came from when Mike was sent off for a yellow card. I thought that [yellow card] was the turning point of the game.

“The final penalty count ended up 14-4 and when you get a penalty count like that and a card, that’s the difference. Having said that, Ulster deserved the win on the night.”

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Finn Russell

Birthday Boy Finn Russell kicks one over for Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ at the foot of the monument in Stirling

A young Edinburgh ‘A’ side, which included eight EDPs (Elite Development Players), faced the tall task of taking on an experienced Glasgow Warriors squad, in what was deemed an away fixture for the Gunners at Bridgehaugh, home of Stirling County.

The inaugural reserve team game gave many of Edinburgh’s young Scottish players the chance to gain some valuable minutes in the Gunners shirt, with many of them putting their hands up and staking a claim for promotion into the first team squad.

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EdinburghAlan Solomons Edinburgh left the Liberty Stadium on Sunday with their egos battered and bruised following a second half onslaught by the Ospreys in their third round Guinness PRO12 fixture. The score was 0/0 at some point, but that was before kick off and didn’t last too long once the referee’s whistle had blown to start the game as Ospreys impressive scrumhalf, and man of the match, Rhys Webb scored a try in the first minute.

The home side had already score three tries by half time with Edinburgh dotting down once as they went into the break with the score – Ospreys 24/10 Edinburgh Rugby. Edinburgh’s last points of the match came shortly after half time from the boot of Tom Heathcote as he slotted a penalty which went over after hitting the right hand upright. It was one way traffic from here on as Ospreys piled on the points and won the match by almost 50 points, scoring nine tries in the process. The final score was Ospreys 62/13 Edinburgh Rugby and is the biggest margin of victory so far this season.

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Guinness PRO12The third round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.

Welsh outfit the Ospreys, who are unbeaten in the PRO12 this season, will head into round 3 at the top of the table with nine points. The only two other unbeaten teams are Glasgow Warriors and Connacht who are in 2nd and 3rd position respectively. Ulster are the other team in the top 4, courtesy of a draw and a win in their first two fixtures and they are the only team who have two bonus points for scoring four tries or more. Ulster top the try scoring list at this early stage in the competition having scored nine tries in their two matches. However, they have conceded the most tries, a handful, of the teams in the top four.

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Guinness-Pro12The second round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with four matches scheduled for Friday night, one for Saturday and one for Sunday.

Both matches involving teams from Scotland will be played on modern artificial pitches. In the first match, tonight, Edinburgh Rugby will play host to Connacht Rugby at BT Murrayfield in what will be the first match on the newly laid hybrid pitch at the National Stadium. The final fixture of the weekend will see a top four clash between Cardiff Blues and Glasgow Warriors on the 3G pitch at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.

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Mike Coman

Mike Coman – Edinburgh’s captain

Experienced back row, Mike Coman, will captain Edinburgh this season, with Scotland international lock, Grant Gilchrist as vice captain.

Coman, who turns 27 later this month, said: “It’s a massive honour, we’ve got an exciting team and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.”

Signing for Edinburgh Rugby during 2013/14 on a two-year deal, Coman is no stranger to the captain’s armband.

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Glasgow WarriorsEdinburghThis 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.

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EdinburghHead coach Alan Solomons will start five of his new Edinburgh Rugby recruits in the club’s first pre-season match against Leicester Tigers at The Greenyards tomorrow (23 August, kick-off 14:00 BST, 15:00 SA Time).

With the exclusion of lock Fraser McKenzie – who returns from Newcastle Falcons to start the game alongside Ollie Atkins – four of the five signings will make their debut for the capital club.

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Edinburgh vs LeicesterEdinburgh Rugby’s pre-season clash with Leicester Tigers at the Greenyards on Saturday 23 August (kick-off 2pm) will be followed match between two of Scotland’s top clubs, to herald the start of the 2014/15 campaign.

Melrose, Scotland’s champion club, and Heriot’s, holders of the National Cup, will meet later this month in the inaugural BT Scottish Rugby Charity Shield. Richard Mill (left) and Jack Turley fromt he respective clubs are pictured above at today’s launch.

The game will crown a feast of rugby at The Greenyards on Saturday 23 August, the week before the new BT Premiership season kicks-off.

Starting the action on 23 August will be a pre-season clash between Edinburgh Rugby and Leicester Tigers, which will kick-off at 2pm.

Then the BT Scottish Rugby Charity Shield will follow with a 5pm kick-off.

The initiative came from Melrose and was discussed with Scottish Rugby and the Premiership Forum.

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Phil Burleigh

Phil Burleigh

Edinburgh’s backline resources for the new season were boosted with the signing of Highlanders utility back Phil Burleigh.

Burleigh signed a two-year deal with the Scottish outfit.

The 27-year-old playmaker came through the ranks with Bay of Plenty, before becoming a regular star in the Southern Hemisphere’s top flight Super Rugby competition.

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Fraser McKenzie

EdinburghEdinburgh Rugby are pleased to announce that Scotland A lock Fraser McKenzie has returned to the club where he began his professional career.

The lock, who can also play on the blind-side, made his Scotland 7s debut in November 2008, represented Scotland A in 2010 and 2011, and was included in the extended Scotland squad for the 2012 RBS 6 Nations.

Moving from Edinburgh Rugby to Sale Sharks in 2011, McKenzie then joined Newcastle Falcons last summer, making a total of 41 English Premiership appearances before earning a move home.

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Rugby-Talk RWC 2015

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