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We can strike back against Munster: Cockerill

 

Happy man: Richard Cockerill has two match-winners back
Happy man: Richard Cockerill has two match-winners back

By Duncan Bech

Richard Cockerill says the return of Edinburgh's World Cup stars Hamish Watson and Stuart McInally could not be better timed as his team looks to bounce back against Munster.

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Watson will make his first appearance since being injured in Scotland's opening pool match in Japan, while McInally - who skippered Gregor Townsend's team in the Far East - is also ready to resume club action in the Guinness PRO14 clash in Cork tonight.

Now Cockerill is hoping the duo's reintroduction to his side will provide the spark they lacked during last week's Challenge Cup meeting with Bordeaux, which saw Edinburgh throw away victory when they allowed the Top 14 outfit to hit back late on in the encounter to snatch a 16-16 draw.

The Englishman said: "It's great to have Hamish and Stuart back representing Edinburgh Rugby.

"They are both special players who are match-winners in their own right. It's a big boost for the club to have them once again available for selection.

"We are looking for a reaction after dropping points at home against Bordeaux last weekend, and the squad will be hungry to put in a quality performance against a very tough opposition in Munster.

"We are certainly under no illusions. Munster are the Conference B leaders, who have a great home record. However, we've selected a very experienced side that travels to Cork with plenty of confidence."

Cockerill has named an unchanged back three consisting of Blair Kinghorn at full-back in between wingers Duhan van der Merwe and Eroni Sau.

Scotland centre duo Matt Scott and Mark Bennett link up in midfield, while stand-off Jaco van der Walt and skipper Henry Pyrgos are selected at half-back.

McInally returns at hooker and packs down alongside Pierre Schoeman and Pietro Ceccarelli in an otherwise unchanged front-row, with Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist both selected in the second-row.

Fijian No.8 Viliame Mata anchors a back row with the returning Watson and blindside flanker Magnus Bradbury completing the pack.

The home side make 14 changes, this fixture either a pebble in their shoe or a chance to take a breather from the vagaries of Champions Cup qualification.

That task stiffened with the points dropped at home last weekend and, even if Saracens might temper their selection for one half of their December double, Cork won't get to see their favourite heroes tonight.

Still, there may be stars of the future on show.

Principally that is Academy out-half Ben Healy, Glenstal Abbey's finest who is already an Under-20 Six Nations Grand Slam winner, who will enjoy linking up with the ex-Leinster man Nick McCarthy.

At the other end of the scale, prop Stephen Archer, whose career path should inform Healy that winding roads are inevitable, becomes just the 11th Munster man to record 200 appearances, a fine tribute to his endurance and adaptability.

Jack O'Donoghue, who captains the side, is the only starter retained from the XV who drew so thrillingly with Racing 92 in Limerick last weekend.

Cockerill's side have lost narrowly in successive years in the play-offs of both this competition and the Champions Cup.

They feel they are getting closer to the Irish province with every passing season.

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