Alex Blair will make his Edinburgh debut in Saturday’s clash with Leinster at the RDS (kick-off 6.05pm, live on BBC ALBA), a game that sees the capital club on the hunt of their fourth successive Magners League win.
Blair, a member of the Scotland 7s team that competed in the Commonwealth Games earlier this month, will start at stand-off as part of a half-back pairing where Mike, one of his elder brothers, takes the other berth having shaken off the bug that prevented him from starting in the victory over Ulster last Friday.
Edinburgh’s other Blair sibling, David, has been excused the trip to Dublin as a precaution after suffering a blow to the head during a midweek training session.
Alex, who stepped up to the professional ranks in the summer after impressing with Scotland A, Scotland under-20s and Edinburgh Accies, has expressed his delight at receiving this first call to arms. He told www.edinburghrugby.org: “I’ve been working hard to earn this opportunity, and I’m really grateful to the coaches for having shown this level of faith in me.
“Dave’s been playing really well recently, so it’s unlucky for him that he needs to miss out this weekend, but you’ve got to grasp your chances as and when they come, and I’ll certainly be aiming to make the most of this one.
“It will be good to have Mike beside me at half-back, not just because he’s my brother, but because he’s a hugely experienced player who’ll be able to give me a few pointers when he feels it’s required.
“It’s a big game to be making my debut in, but I’m relishing the thought of going to a place like the RDS and showing what we’re all about.
“As a team, we’re all really keen to keep this good run going and add to the momentum that’s been building.”
The first part of Edinburgh’s three-game winning sequence was a 32-24 success over Leinster at Murrayfield on 24 September. The last time the sides met in Ireland was on the final weekend of last year’s Magners League regular season, when a four-try effort from Rob Moffat’s men saw them fall agonisingly short of landing a place in the play-offs.
The Edinburgh head coach today asked for a repeat of both the ambition his troops showed that May afternoon and the grit they displayed in the hard-fought win over Ulster seven days ago. Moffat said: “I don’t like harking back too much to previous games, but the guys who were involved the last time we went to Dublin know they don’t want to end up with the same feeling again after the game.
“We played really well that day, but didn’t win, and in the end that’s what it’s all about. I was really happy with how we finished the job against Ulster, and I want to see us taking our chances even more ruthlessly this weekend.
“Leinster are always a really tough challenge, especially when they’re at home, but we’ve picked a team that we think is capable of going there and winning.
“I’ve watched Alex develop over the last few years and on occasion this season with Melrose in Premier 1, and he’s a really exciting talent.
He’ll have a lot of experience around him on Saturday and I’ve every faith he’ll show why we are so pleased to have him in our squad.”
Moffat’s starting line-up shows four personnel changes over and above the two at half-back. Ross Ford and Roddy Grant, rested against Ulster, return at hooker and No.8 respectively, while John Houston and Alex Grove will form a new centre pairing.
James King, who has lined up at 12 in the last two games, misses out after taking a blow to his knee in training, throwing the door open for Houston to make his first Edinburgh start of the season.
Scott Newlands, a fellow member of the Scotland 7s Commonwealth Games team, is named among the replacements, and will make his 50th Edinburgh appearance should he enter the fray.
Moffat confirmed: “I’ll be pleased for Scott when he hits that landmark, because he’s a player who works hard at his game and has never let us down.
“There’s a chance there for a number of guys this weekend to show why they should be featuring more regularly, and I’m sure they’ll all be raring to go.”
EDINBURGH TEAM FOR Magners League GAME AGAINST LEINSTER AT THE RDS, DUBLIN ON SATURDAY 30 OCTOBER (KICK-OFF 6.05pm, LIVE ON BBC ALBA)
15 Chris Paterson
14 Jim Thompson
13 Alex Grove
12 John Houston
11 Tim Visser
10 Alex Blair
9 Mike Blair
1 Allan Jacobsen
2 Ross Ford
3 Geoff Cross
4 Scott MacLeod
5 Fraser McKenzie
6 Netani Talei
8 Roddy Grant (captain)
7 Ross Rennie
16 Andrew Kelly
17 Kyle Traynor
18 David Young
19 Esteban Lozada
20 Scott Newlands
21 Greig Laidlaw
22 David Bishop
23 Mark Robertson