European Challenge Cup: Edinburgh make two changes for final
Cornell du Preez and Greig Tonks return as the Gunners head to the Twickenham Stoop looking to win their first European title
Edinburgh have made two changes to their starting XV for their European Challenge Cup final against Gloucester at the Stoop on Friday.
Head coach Alan Solomons has kept faith with much of the side that got Edinburgh to their first European final with a solitary change in the forwards as Cornell du Preez makes his first start at number eight since a serious lower leg injury against Newport Gwent Dragons in October.
To be in the final is massive for the players, the club and Scottish rugby. We are determined to deliver a performance that befits the occasion.
Edinburgh go into the match as the underdogs, not least because of the big names in the Gloucester side, but there is enough talent in their team to cause the English big-spenders problems.
After two appearances off the bench in recent weeks, du Preez comes into the back row instead of hooker Stuart McInally, who has been deputising in the back row and starts the final on the bench as replacement hooker, meaning a positional switch for captain Mike Coman, who moves to blindside flanker.
In the backs, Greig Tonks has recovered from a hamstring injury and is preferred at full-back to Tom Brown, who has to make do with a place on the bench.
“This is a huge occasion,” Solomons said.
“To be in the final is massive for the players, the club and Scottish rugby.
“We are determined to deliver a performance that befits the occasion.”
The rest of the team remains unchanged, so Tim Visser continues on the left wing for his 50th European appearance at what will be his home ground next season, while Dougie Fife continues on the right wing.
New Zealander Phil Burleigh continues at outside-half, where he has looked impressive in recent weeks despite playing most of his rugby at centre while, in young scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Edinburgh possess one of the stand-out players of the competition.
Up front, Edinburgh could be dangerous with a front row boasting two very experienced Scottish internationals in loosehead prop Alasdair Dickinson and hooker Ross Ford, with tighthead prop WP Nel also a growing force and no stranger to the opposition tryline.
Ben Toolis has been a revelation this season in the engine room with his ball carrying and winning almost everything within reach of his telescopic arms at the lineout, while his long-haired pal Anton Bresler is also a strong lineout presence and the sort of beast who loves smashing through brick walls at the breakdown.
Despite the availability of openside flanker Hamish Watson, Roddy Grant gets the nod to start after a string of impressive performances, so Watson has to make do with a place on the bench.
Gloucester Rugby: Charlie Sharples; Jonny May, Bill Meakes, Billy Twelvetrees (captain), Henry Purdy; James Hook, Greig Laidlaw; Nick Wood, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa; Tom Savage, Tom Palmer; Ross Moriarty, Matt Kvesic, Gareth Evans
Replacements: Darren Dawidiuk, Yann Thomas, Sila Puafisi, Mariano Galarza, Jacob Rowan; Dan Robson, Billy Burns, Steve McColl.
Edinburgh: Greig Tonks; Dougie Fife, Sam Beard, Andries Strauss, Tim Visser; Phil Burleigh, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Ben Toolis, Mike Coman (captain), Roddy Grant, Cornell du Preez.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Rory Sutherland, John Andress, Fraser McKenzie, Hamish Watson; Nathan Fowles, Tom Heathcote, Tom Brown.
Referee: Jerôme Garces (FFR)