European Rugby Champions Cup: Edinburgh v Newcastle Falcons


Kinghorn won his sixth and seventh caps for Scotland during the autumn internationals
European Rugby Champions Cup
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium Date: Friday, 7 December Kick-off: 19:45
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland, BBC local radio, plus text commentary on BBC Sport website and app

Scotland full-back Blair Kinghorn and Fiji number eight Viliame Mata are among 10 internationals Edinburgh welcome back for Friday’s pivotal Champions Cup meeting with Newcastle.

Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie also return up front.

The Falcons have made 13 changes from the starting XV that beat Northampton.

England’s Mark Wilson is out with an ear infection, with wings Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti also missing.

The visitors have also brought in an all-new half-back partnership with Brett Connon taking over fly-half duties from Toby Flood and Sonatane Takulua coming in for Sam Stuart at nine.

Flanker Gary Graham, who trained with Scotland in the autumn 10 months after doing so with England’s Six Nations squad, starts at open-side with Callum Chick at eight. Scotland centre Chris Harris also starts for the Falcons.

Pool Five
Played Won Points
Newcastle 2 2 8
Edinburgh 2 1 6
Montpellier 2 1 5
Toulon 2 0 1

Newcastle are top of Pool Five after superb victories away to Toulon and at home to Montpellier in their first two matches. After losing five of their first six Premiership encounters, they are making headway on the domestic front as well with their win over Saints following a home success over Bath.

“We’ve had the beauty of winning both of our games in Europe so everything’s up for grabs in terms of how we can move on in this competition, and it’s an important game for us,” said director of rugby Dean Richards.

“You know what you’re going to get from a side coached by Richard Cockerill. He will have them well drilled and up for it, and in someone like Viliame Mata they have one of the best number eights in world rugby who has been playing some unbelievable stuff in recent months.”

Like their opponents, Edinburgh, who have a 100% home record so far this season, have made a total of 13 changes from the side beaten at Munster in the Pro14 last weekend.

Callum Chick and Gary Graham – both pivotal in Newcastle’s win over Montpellier – start at Murrayfield

Scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and wing Darcy Graham are the other members of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad back on club duty, while South African prop Pierre Schoeman makes his Champions Cup debut.

“It’s been great to get everybody back in, for obvious reasons. They’re all fit and healthy, which is good news for the club,” said head coach Cockerill.

“We need to win. If you’re going to qualify out of the group, then you’re going to need to win three of the last four games – at least – to give yourself an opportunity.”

Argentine centre Juan Pablo Socino is among the replacements, with his younger brother Santiago on the Newcastle bench.

Edinburgh: Kinghorn; Graham, Johnstone, Dean, Van der Merwe; Van der Walt, Pyrgos; Schoeman, McInally (c), Nel, Toolis, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Watson, Mata

Replacements: Cherry, Dell, Berghan, Hunter-Hill, Hamilton, Fowles, Hickey, Socino

Newcastle: Tait; Arscott, Harris, Bettencourt, Radwan; Connon, Takulua; Brocklebank, McGuigan, Wilson, Cavubati, Young, Burrows (c), Graham, Chick.

Replacements: Socino, Davison, Mavinga, Green, Uzokwe, Stuart, Flood, Williams

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