Edinburgh Rugby are looking to take a big step towards reaching the Guinness PRO14 Final Series when they face Scarlets in Round 20 at BT Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon.
Another defeat could have Ulster breathing down Edinburgh’s necks after they lost 32-20 at home to their nearest challengers for a top-three finish in Conference B last week.
That ended a run of six straight league wins for Richard Cockerill’s side, but they have a chance to bounce back against the champions, who have lost their last three away games.
A fourth straight loss on the road would seriously dent Scarlets’ hopes of a home semi-final and they’ve named a much-changed line-up.
Scarlets ran out 28-8 winners in the reverse fixture at Parc y Scarlets in September to tie the head-to-head between the two sides at 14 victories apiece.
Here are two key match-ups that could decide who claims the four points.
Blair Kinghorn v Tom Varndell
Blair Kinghorn shone in defeat for Edinburgh against Ulster last week, as he gained 105 metres from full back and defeated five defenders.
It continued what has been a superb season for the 21-year-old, who made his international debut for Scotland during this year’s Six Nations.
He’s likely to be critical towards Edinburgh’s attacking game again, as no-one in the Guinness PRO14 has gained more than the 1,255 metres Kinghorn has eaten up over the course of the season.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 13, 2018
Against what is mostly a young Scarlets line-up, there could be plenty of space to exploit if the champions’ usual fast-paced style of play doesn’t produce as much coherence this time.
But their backline does include the prolific Tom Varndell with the English Premiership’s all-time top try scorer starting on the right wing.
Despite being 32 years of age, Varndell hasn’t lost his pace and Kinghorn’s defensive capabilities are going to have to be spot on to prevent him from adding to his already impressive career tally.
Ben Toolis v Steve Cummins
Lock Steve Cummins is one of just two Scarlets players from last week’s 26-8 victory over Conference A leaders Glasgow Warriors to have retained his place this time around.
The Australian comes into this crucial game off the back of making 18 tackles in preventing the Warriors from gaining any momentum and will have to bring that type of work-rate again.
The 26-year-old won’t have the same type of experience around him this time and he’ll be up against one of the best line-out operators in the Guinness PRO14.
This Saturday we take on reigning Guinness PRO14 champions Scarlets at BT Murrayfield.
Join the fight for the Final Series and secure your tickets today.
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) April 10, 2018
Only one player can better the eight opposition line-outs Ben Toolis has stolen this season and he added two to that particular tally off the throwing of Ulster’s Rory Best last Friday.
If Toolis can gain supremacy in that area of the set-piece, then Edinburgh have a better chance of utilising what looks like a potent backline.
With second row partner Grant Gilchrist a big presence in the loose, that part of the field could decide which of these teams picks up an all-important victory.
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