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New deals for Edinburgh duo

Edinburgh have handed new contracts to flanker Hamish Watson and lock Ben Toolis.

Academy graduate Watson, 23, has penned a new two-year deal, while Toolis - another to have come through the club's youth system - has put his name to a 12-month extension.

Watson now hopes to build on the impressive start to his Gunners career.

With 24 appearances for the club, and two tries, his power and work-rate have already made him a fans' favourite.

He said: "It's great to know, so early, that I'll be with the club for the next two seasons. Last season my opportunities were a bit limited then I started the first game after the summer and got into a good run.

"The highlights for me this season have been that first game beating Munster away, the win in France over Bordeaux-Begles and the last five minutes when I came off the bench in the 1872 Cup win over Glasgow last Friday.

"That gives us great momentum going to Connacht this weekend and, as a team, we want to push into that top six in the league. These are really exciting times, going forward."

Toolis, 22, joined the club, along with twin brother Alex in the summer of 2013 as an academy player before securing a professional deal 12 months later.

The 6ft 7in former volleyball international stepped into the breach when Grant Gilchrist was ruled out with injury earlier this term.

Born in Brisbane, Toolis qualifies to represent Scotland through his Lanarkshire-born mother.

He said: "Obviously things have happened a bit sooner than I expected and I'm really happy - it's the right decision for me. Now I'm getting game time, Edinburgh are on the rise and I want to be part of it.

"Getting the full 80 minutes in both games against Glasgow to win the 1872 Cup, sharing that experience with the boys was really special. Last Friday's match was definitely the biggest game of my career so far.

"I want to keep getting good game time, keep playing well for Edinburgh and helping to back up our performances."

Meanwhile, following last week's victory over Glasgow Warriors, which secured Edinburgh the 1872 Cup and four league points, head coach Alan Solomons will make three changes to the starting XV to take on Connacht in Friday night's Guinness PRO12 match at the Sportsground.

Moving up from the bench, Willem Nel replaces John Andress at tighthead. Roddy Grant moves to the blindside with Watson - who returned to action after injury, from the bench last Friday - coming into the openside in place of Mike Coman, who is being rested. Ross Ford will captain the side.

There are no changes to the backs while coming on to the bench, and potentially making his first appearance for the club, is Scottish-qualified trialist stand-off Jade Te Rure.

Solomons said: "We have taken note of Connacht's victory over Munster and their unbeaten home record and appreciate that we will have to be at our best to come away with the spoils."


From Belfast Telegraph