Sean Everitt believes Edinburgh have an opportunity to lay down a marker in the United Rugby Championship when they take on Zebre in Italy on Friday night.

The Edinburgh head coach has named a strong team to face the Italians in Parma with seven  Scotland players released to play with WP Nel returning from injury and being joined by fellow international squad members Glen Young, Jamie Ritchie, Ali Price, Ben Healy and Harry Paterson in the starting XV while Javan Sebastian is among the replacements.

It’s an experienced lineup with Hamish Watson earning his 150th cap for Edinburgh and will start at openside with Ritchie at blindside and Bill Mata at number 8. Nel is joined in the front row by Dave Cherry at hooker and Boan Venter at loosehead prop.

Marshall Sykes partners Sykes in the second row with international pair Price and Healy starting in the half backs with James Lang and Matt Currie in at centre. Paterson, who impressed in his surprise Scotland debut against France last week, is named to start on the wing along with Chris Dean while Argentine Emiliano Boffelli starts at full back.

READ MORE: Hamish Watson to hit Edinburgh milestone as part of strong team to face Zebre

Everitt is keen for Edinburgh to get a result that increases their playoff chances and admitted that he feels there’s an opportunity to finish in the top four and earn a home game when it comes to that stage of the season.

Speaking before flying to Italy, he said: “It’s a massively important game partly due to the league position but also due to the fact there’s a lot of teams in the top eight playing each other this weekend. The Lions are two points off us and will be playing against the Bulls on the weekend so for us to keep the destiny in our own hands it’s vital for us to get a win.

“We don’t want to slip up an opportunity to build a gap between first, second, third and fourth to fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth because if everything goes our way this weekend and we get five points we could go into the top four.

“It is a realistic target for us and the next two rounds are vitally important for us to be able to achieve that. We’re sitting in a pretty good position at the moment in the middle of the table (sixth) with 26 points, eight points off Leinster at the top. Leinster play Benetton and anything can happen there. A lot of top 8 teams are playing each other and the log is also quite close if you look down to ninth and tenth.

“For us it’s about trying to get as many points as we can out of the next two games. Ten would be great but we’d be happy with nine. That would be our goal from the next two rounds. If we can achieve that we go to South Africa with a bit of buffer between the teams in the top eight as that’s how it should work out. Obviously we’ll look to do as well as we can there and then we come home and have quite a few home games, Zebre and Munster, and Benetton and Cardiff away. Those are games that we believe we can win. We’re still talking about top 8 but also about putting ourselves in the best position possible to get a home quarter-final.”

Healy is back in at fly-half having been an unused replacement in both of Scotland’s Six Nations games so far and Everitt understands he’s likely to be disappointed with that but he’s looking to the positives of him being involved in the match day 23. There’s also the figure of talisman Finn Russell starting in front of him and the Edinburgh head coach wants all of his internationals to use this weekend as an opportunity to show Gregor Townsend what they can do.

He said: “The good thing about Ben is he’s getting that opportunity to prepare with the match 23 every week so I always look at the positives. It would probably be disappointing for him not to have got onto the field but you have to respect he’s playing behind Finn Russell who’s in really good form at the moment.

“So for the team’s benefit, when it comes to a four-pointer with just a few minutes to go, your leader on the field is very important and someone like Finn can also turn a game on its head in an instant. As a coach I’ve done that. Sometimes a player hasn’t gone on as at that moment in time there’s no need for change. But this is an opportunity for all the players, especially Ben, to show he has the confidence and ability to be able to be put on in tight situations at international level. He needs to grab this opportunity with both hands.

“I spoke to all the players and told them it’s great they’ve got an opportunity to play.

“Sometimes the match 23 who haven’t been released are sitting at home on their couches while their opposite numbers are playing really well for their clubs. So it puts them at a bit of an advantage when it comes to selection. So it’s about sticking to task, doing what they can for the team and putting in a good individual performance. I’m sure Ali will be back in contention and they’ll have discussed him in selection meetings in depth because he’s been in good form for us.”

Edinburgh team to face Zebre: Boffelli, Paterson, Currie, Lang, Dean, Healy, Price, Venter, Cherry, Nel, Sykes, Young, Ritchie, Watson, Mata

Replacements: Harrison, de Bruin, Sebastian, Dodd, Boyle, Vellacott, Bennett, Sweeney