Scotland back-rower Hamish Watson is set to return to action in December, handing Gregor Townsend a huge boost ahead of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.
Watson suffered a serious knee injury in Scotland’s opening Rugby World Cup game against Ireland in Yokohama, ruling him out for the rest of the tournament and the foreseeable future.
The 28-year-old had not been due back initially until the beginning of 2020, leaving him in a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of Scotland’s Championship curtain-raiser – which, ironically, comes against Ireland in Dublin on February 1.
But those worries have now been assuaged, with Edinburgh’s head coach Richard Cockerill expecting him back before Christmas and potentially in time for the 1872 Cup clash against old foes Glasgow Warriors on December 21.
Watson sustained the injury after a collision with Irish props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong in the middle of a painful ruck tangle, leaving the field on a stretcher in an acute blow to Scotland’s World Cup hopes.
However, he could have as many as three European matches and three Guinness PRO14 rounds before the start of the 2020 Championship.
Elsewhere for Edinburgh, Charlie Shiel – son of former Scotland centre Graham Shiel – is set to follow in his father’s footsteps by making his first professional start in the European Challenge Cup against Agen on Friday night.
The scrum-half has so far made 11 appearances off the bench for Cockerill’s side, now being awarded the full No. 9 jersey for Edinburgh’s trip to France.
His father accumulated 18 Scotland caps as a centre between 1991 and 2000, scoring 20 points and appearing five times in the Championship between 1993 and 2000.
But now it’s his son’s turn to seize the limelight, with the 21-year-old hoping to impress in a landmark first start across the Channel.
“He’s got to prove he can run a game for us,” said Cockerill.
“In his cameos off the bench he’s looked sharp and has a spark – he’s got to be able to be calm and lead the team around the field and drive the team.
“It will be interesting to see if he can do that from the start of a game.”