Interim head coach Stevie Scott today named the Edinburgh Rugby side charged with sparking an end-of-season resurgence against Ulster at Murrayfield Stadium on Friday night (kick-off 7.30pm).
The Ulstermen enjoyed the top spot of the RaboDirect PRO12 since September however two losses and a draw in their last four matches saw them supplanted into second place on points’ difference in the previous round.
Their form still compares favourably to their hosts’ however, who go into the match seeking their first championship success on an eighth attempt.
Despite the difference in standings, Scott says the players and management are taking confidence from a quality week preparing for his first match at the helm.
He said: “The players’ reaction in training this week has been excellent. It’s been a tough season but their commitment to improving and getting results for the club and its fans has been superb.
“A lot of hard work has gone in this week but, importantly, the work done has also been of a very high standard. There’s a real will to do whatever it takes to get our results back on track.”
Scott has made three changes to the pack for the Ulster clash, with international back-row Ross Rennie making a welcome return from the shoulder injury he sustained in Scotland's EMC Test match against New Zealand in November.
Netani Talei replaces the injured David Denton (knee) at number 8 and lock Grant Gilchrist comes back into the squad after his international debut against France last weekend.
Both Scott and interim assistant coach Duncan Hodge have seen enough of promising young scrum-half Sean Kennedy from his Scotland A success and loan spell at Glasgow Warriors to hand the 21-year-old his Edinburgh Rugby debut, where he’ll partner Piers Francis at half-back from the outset.
Ben Atiga returns to inside-centre for his 10th appearance in the competition alongside Dougie Fife, who has been moved infield to accommodate Tom Brown on the wing, with the back three completed by Greig Tonks and Lee Jones.
Of note is the firepower named on the bench, with an all-international front-row of Ross Ford, John Yapp and Geoff Cross ready to enter the fray as well as the division’s three-time top try-scorer, Tim Visser.
Edinburgh Rugby team to play Ulster at Murrayfield Stadium.
Friday 22 March, Kick-off 7.30pm
15 Greig Tonks
14 Lee Jones
13 Dougie Fife
12 Ben Atiga
11 Tom Brown
10 Piers Francis
9 Sean Kennedy
1 Allan Jacobsen
2 Steven Lawrie
3 Willem Nel
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Sean Cox CAPTAIN
6 Stuart McInally
7 Ross Rennie
8 Netani Talei
16 Ross Ford
17 John Yapp
18 Geoff Cross
19 Perry Parker
20 Hamish Watson
21 Richie Rees
22 Harry Leonard
23 Tim Visser