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Leinster Rugby vs Edinburgh Rugby
RDS Showground, Dublin
Friday, 13th April, 2012, 19:45

Television: Live: TG4

Classy, Clinical and Professional!

Leinster turned up with their A-game last week, well for the first 46 minutes anyway. With 34 points racked up and the win more than secure, Leinster seemed to go into camouflage mode and effectively worked on their defensive drills for the rest of the match. They were content with only scoring the four tries but each one was a dazzling work of sublime passing and support running. There must be a special mention for Brian O'Driscoll's score though, which will be hard to beat for try of the season.

As good as the tries and the performance was though, Leinster will know there's much tougher tests ahead. Cardiff were expected to give it a shot, but truth be told, they looked like they didn't want to be there after five minutes. Still, Leinster could only beat what was in front of them but they'll know they have a completely different test ahead of them in the semi-final against Clermont in Bordeaux.

Clermont dismissed their reputation as bad travellers by destroying Saracens with a brutally efficient display in Vicarage Road. After losing the epic quarter-final in the RDS in 2010 and going out to Leinster in the group stages last season, Clermont certainly won't be short of motivation for taking on the boys in blue. Though Bordeaux is hardly close, their magnificent fans will surely travel in huge numbers determined to recreate the raucous atmosphere of the Stade Marcel Michelin. Leinster can win but it will require quite possibly their best ever European performance.

In a quirky twist of the fixture lists, Leinster will face the three Heineken Cup semi-finalists in the next three weeks. They have a tough trip to Ulster next week, who'll be flying after their magnificent win over Munster in Thomond Park last week. That wasn't the biggest shock of the weekend though, that had to go to the defeat of Toulouse by Leinster's opponents tomorrow, Edinburgh.

Leinster have played Edinburgh several times in Murrayfield, the vast majority of times when it was pretty much empty. So it was quite startling to see 37,000 odd fans there to watch Edinburgh last week. And what a performance their team produced! When down to 13 men for ten minutes before half-time, they looked to be finished but they showed great character to get through that phase. Then in the second half, they were simply the better team, outplaying Toulouse and thoroughly deserving their victory and their lap of honour.

Their win was made all the more incredible by the stark comparison with their form in the league. Frankly they've been awful with only five wins and a draw from nineteen games, which leaves them second from bottom of the table only seven points ahead of poor doomed Aironi. They did manage to beat the Scarlets at home in their last league match but that was their first win after seven straight defeats. It was noticeable in Michael Bradley's days as Connacht coach that he seemed to target European Cup runs to the detriment of league performances and this pattern seems to be repeating itself.

Despite having little to play for in the league, he's selected a pretty strong team that shows only five changes to the team that started against Toulouse. Chris Leck comes in at scrum-half for the injured Mike Blair and that is the only change in the backline. Tim Visser on the left wing is an obvious dangerman for them and he makes up a potent back three with Tom Brown and Lee Jones, who's thankfully recovered from the horrific head injury he suffered playing for Scotland at the Aviva stadium last month. Greig Laidlaw captains the team from out-half and he's been in splendid form with the boot for them. There are four changes in the pack as Kyle Traynor, Esteban Lozada, Stuart McInally and Roddy Grant all come in. Netani Talei continues at number eight for them though and he's been one of their main men in their European run. Lions hooker Ross Ford, prop Geoff Cross and lock Sean Cox also bring mobility and aggression to the mix. It's a decent side that will be looking to maintain their momentum.

Leinster are looking for the win to secure their spot as top team in the league and home advantage for the play-offs. If they win with a bonus-point only the Ospreys, who are away to Cardiff this week, will be mathematically able to catch them. Joe Schmidt has typically rotated his side making twelve changes but has still named a very strong starting fifteen. Isa Nacewa, Gordon D'Arcy and Jamie Heaslip (who captains the team) are the only players to retain their starting places from last weekend. Fergus McFadden comes in to the centre to partner D'Arcy and David Kearney and Fionn Carr come in on the wings. Ian Madigan and Isaac Boss are the half-back pairing. In the pack Heinke van der Merwe, Sean Cronin and Nathan White form a new front row and Damian Browne and Devin Toner are the second rows. Rhys Ruddock and Shane Jennings are named either side of Heaslip in the back row. Academy prop Martin Moore is named on the bench after a strong showing last week in the British and Irish Cup semi-final against Munster along with Noel Reid and Brendan Macken who also featured in that game.

The game between the teams earlier in the season was a bit of a shoot-out finishing 36-28 to Leinster. Leinster are in business mode at this time of the season though and with this being their last regular season game at the RDS, they will be determined not to be beaten for a third time this season. Edinburgh will throw it around and make Leinster work for it but it would be a big shock if they cause them too much trouble tomorrow evening.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Edinburgh Rugby
Teams Isa Nacewa 15 Tom Brown
David Kearney 14 Lee Jones
Fergus McFadden 13 Nick De Luca
Gordon D'Arcy 12 Matt Scott
Fionn Carr 11 Tim Visser
Ian Madigan 10 Greig Laidlaw (C)
Isaac Boss 9 Chris Leck

Heinke van der Merwe 1 Kyle Traynor
Sean Cronin 2 Ross Ford
Nathan White 3 Geoff Cross
Damian Browne
4 Esteban Lozada
Devin Toner 5 Sean Cox
Rhys Ruddock 6 Stuart McInally
Shane Jennings 7 Roddy Grant
Jamie Heaslip (C)
8 Netani Talei

Replacements Richardt Strauss 16 Andrew Kelly
Jack McGrath 17 Robin Hislop
Martin Moore 18 Jack Gilding
Kevin McLaughlin 19 Grant Gilchrist
Leo Auva'a 20 David Denton
Eoin Reddan 21 Ross Rennie
Noel Reid 22 Phil Godman
Brendan Macken 23 Jim Thompson

Not Considered
due to Injury
Eamonn Sheridan,
Ben Marshall,
Ciaran Ruddock,
John Cooney,
Eoin O'Malley

Mike Blair,
Ben Cairns,
Allan Jacobsen,
James King,
Steven Lawrie
Officials Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Simon McDowell (both IRFU)
4th Official: Gary Glennon (Leinster Rugby Referees)
5th Official: Robbie O'Flynn (Leinster Rugby Referees)
TMO: Jude Quinn (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2012-04-12

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