Head coach Alan Solomons has made three personnel changes to the Edinburgh Rugby team named to face Ulster at Murrayfield Stadium tomorrow night (kick-off 7.45pm).
The club have won five of their last six RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures at home, including notable scalps of Leinster and Ospreys, however the Ulstermen’s 41-17 win at Ravenhill in November will still be fresh in memory of the Murrayfield men.
While believing the club have continued to make progress this season, Solomons was under no illusions about the enormity of the task presented by the unbeaten Heineken Cup quarter-finalists.
He said: “Ulster are probably one of the top three or four teams in Europe, there’s no question about that.
It’s a great challenge for us. We feel that, as a group, we have improved as the season has gone on, and look forward to the kind of challenges presented by the top teams.
- - Head coach Alan Solomons
“We looked forward to Ospreys and got the result because we delivered a good performance.
“The same thing applies to this game, however I would say that Ulster are stronger than the Ospreys and will therefore require an even better performance from the players.”
Edinburgh Rugby team v Ulster
Friday 21 March (kick-off 7.45pm)
15 Jack Cuthbert
14 Dougie Fife
13 Sam Beard
12 Andries Strauss
11 Tom Brown
10 Carl Bezuidenhout
9 Grayson Hart
1 Alasdair Dickinson
2 Ross Ford
3 Willem Nel
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Izak van der Westhuizen
6 Mike Coman CAPTAIN
7 Roddy Grant
8 Cornell Du Preez
Substitutes: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Ewan McQuillin, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Nick De Luca
The club are without rested international trio David Denton, Matt Scott and Greig Laidlaw, but welcome the inclusion of props Willem Nel and Alasdair Dickinson – the latter returning from Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations campaign – in an otherwise unchanged forward pack.
The third personnel change sees Tom Brown take a place on the wing having recovered from the thigh strain that kept him out of the Ospreys match.
His inclusion allows Jack Cuthbert to return to his favoured full-back position, while trialist Carl Bezuidenhout will orchestrate the backline from stand-off.
The back division is completed by scrum-half Grayson Hart, who scored a brace in his last appearance, centres Andries Strauss and Sam Beard – another scorer last time out – and wing Dougie Fife, who makes his first outing as a capped internationalist after his Scotland debut last weekend.
The personnel changes mean Wicus Blaauw, Harry Leonard and elite development prop Ewan McQuillin are selected - who could make his debut if brought into the fray - are selected on the bench, while Nick De Luca begins his return from a head knock as a replacement.
Solomons added: “Tom [Brown] has been playing well for us recently and would have started against Ospreys were it not for an injury picked up mid-week.
“His return means we can get a look at Carl [Bezuidenhout] at fly-half and see what he can do for us in that position while he’s on trial here.
The rest of the team is largely the same. Overall I thought they played well against the Ospreys and deserve to be rewarded.”
Speaking on the inclusion of EDP prop McQuillin, Solomons added: “This is a good chance for a young Scottish player in a very important position to get some game time.
“He has made good advancements since his involvement in the professional squad and this is a great opportunity for the young Gala man.”