Now 25, Owsley took four years out of rugby earlier in his career to focus on athletics. He won a national title in the under-20s 400m, represented the Great Britain team in the 200m and in both relays and the one-lap distance, and also trained with Bristol City FC academy as a teenager. Sometimes rugby players with a background in athletics find it difficult to adapt to the variety of tasks required in rugby, but Edinburgh defense coach Calum MacRae, for example, is convinced that Owsley can do much more than just pick up the ball and run.
“There’s more rugby in him than people might give him credit for just because he has a different sports background,” MacRae said yesterday. “He’s got some football. He’s obviously played quite a bit of rugby. I remember looking at some footage of him playing sevens when we watched him, and he’s got a great touch on his left foot to give himself a chance.
“He’s extremely fast. When he gets out into the open you can see that other gear as we’ve come to expect from Duhan van der Merwe – and the good thing about Freddie is that because of that 400m background he also has a bit of stamina, he has repeatability.
“The thing with Freddie is we’ve seen great potential – that’s why we recruited him to the club,” the coach continued. “It has taken a while and he has had to be patient. He has performed very well in training in recent weeks and it is a really good chance for him to test himself at this level now.
“He’s been champion the moment he was ready to go. It just feels like the right time to bring him into a competitive game.”
Owsley takes over in the back three from Argentine international Ramiro Moyano, who is out with an Achilles tendon injury but is expected back soon. Center James Lang is also sidelined with a leg injury and he too should be back in action in a week or two.
While Lang retires, five of his fellow Scotland internationals Mark Bennett, Dave Cherry, Darcy Graham, Stuart McInally and Hamish Watson are all returning to the fray after missing out on a 21-20 defeat to the London-Irish team six days ago.
That latest defeat in London meant Edinburgh traveled home by just one point, but they are still well on their way for a top three place in Pool C. Indeed, if other results fall in their favour, a win tonight could can be all they need to finish in those positions and go on to the last 16.
However, with the best fourth-placed team from the three pools also finishing in three, a draw or even a loss wouldn’t end Edinburgh’s qualifying chances as they have one last pool game at home against Pau in April to fall back on if necessary. .