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Edinburgh Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Murrayfield, Edinburgh,
Friday, 4th January 2013, 19:35

Television: Live TG4, BBC Alba

It wasn't pretty last week but a young team got the win Leinster needed against Connacht to end their losing streak and keep them in touch with the top four. Once again, Glasgow, Munster and the Ospreys, Leinster's closest contenders at the moment, all won but the top two teams, Ulster and Scarlets, both lost. Ulster are still unlikely to be caught at the top but the Scarlets defeat means they are in big danger of slipping down, especially as they have to travel to Ravenhill to face the leaders tomorrow. There's only three points between second placed Scarlets and sixth placed Leinster which shows how competitive the battle for the top four is this season.

Leinster will travel to Edinburgh more hopeful than they once did. Murrayfield used to be a place of dread for Leinster players, a place they seemingly couldn't win. However in recent times, it's proved less troublesome and they've won on three of their last four visits there including the 2009 Heineken Cup final. Leinster beat Edinburgh in the RDS earlier in the season but the Scottish team's spirited performance that day in earning a losing bonus point suggested a real improvement. It came on the back of last season's run to the Heineken Cup semi-final.

However during that glorious run, they also finished second from last in the league and this is the form they've taken into this season. Despite appearing to strengthen the squad well in the summer Edinburgh have been simply awful in Europe this season, held scoreless in their first two matches and still without a try after four. They are bottom of the pool table with no points and their form in the league has only been marginally better. After a decent enough start with two wins and the losing bonus point in Dublin in their first four games, they've only won two games since and over the Christmas period they suffered the pain of losing both of the derby matches against high-riding Glasgow.

There's not much of a feel-good factor about Edinburgh at the moment and coach Michael Bradley is a man under pressure. He's also got to contend with a lengthy injury list that includes key men like Lee Jones, Ross Ford, Ross Rennie and John Yapp. He's named a team showing four changes to the side that started against Glasgow last Friday. Former All Black centre Ben Atiga returns in place of James King to partner Matt Scott in the centre. Greig Tonks is at full-back with Dougie Fife and the always dangerous Tim Visser on the wings. Skipper Greig Laidlaw has returned to his original position of scrum-half with their signing from Waikato Piers Francis now playing at out-half.

The only change to the front five sees South African prop WP Nel return at tight-head to link up with Allan Jacobsen and former England hooker Andy Titterrell in the front row. Grant Gilchrist and Sean Cox make up a hard-working second row combination. The final changes to the team come in the backrow as Netani Talei and Roddy Grant drop out to make way for Stuart McInally and Georgian International Dimitri Basilaia. This means David Denton switches from blindside to number eight and much of Edinburgh's hopes will centre on his powerful ball carrying.

For Leinster it's a case of seeing who's back from injury and there is some very good news at last as Luke Fitzgerald, Brian O'Driscoll and Rob Kearney all return to the team. For Fitzgerald it's his first game since last season's Heineken semi-final against Clermont and he'll be desperate to show what he can do, especially as he's only on a year-long contract. Kearney starts only his second game of the season and it's O'Driscoll's first game since getting injured in the home match against Cardiff. The return of all three players will be a massive boost to the Leinster squad and the Ireland management. Here's hoping they all get an injury free run from now to the end of the season.

In all, Joe Schmidt has made 13 changes to the team that began against Connacht, with Fionn Carr and Devin Toner the only survivors from that match. Carr, Kearney and Fitzgerald make up the back three with O'Driscoll resuming his centre partnership with Gordon D'Arcy. Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan are back at half-back and they'll be delighted to finally have a more familiar looking set of out-side backs to fire passes out to.

In the pack Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Mike Ross return to the front row with Leo Cullen back in the second row to partner Toner. After the younger back row of Ruddock, Ryan and Murphy played very well last week the established starters of Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip won't be resting on their laurels.

Leinster have pressing business coming up in the next two weeks as they desperately seek to salvage this season's Heineken Cup campaign. However they will hope to use this game to both get back into the groove and to get an important win in the league. With good weather forecast, they will hopefully be able to batter Edinburgh up front with their returning ball carriers and find space out wide for their returning stars. Both the fans and the team will no doubt receive a boost from seeing such a strong team named and hopefully that will carry Leinster to a good win.

Team Lineups

Edinburgh Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Greig Tonks 15 Rob Kearney
Dougie Fife 14 Fionn Carr
Matt Scott 13 Brian O'Driscoll
Ben Atiga12 Gordon D'Arcy
Tim Visser 11 Luke Fitzgerald
Piers Francis 10 Jonathan Sexton
Greig Laidlaw (C)
9 Eoin Reddan

Allan Jacobsen 1 Cian Healy
Andy Titterrell 2 Sean Cronin
Willem Nel 3 Mike Ross
Grant Gilchrist 4 Leo Cullen (C)
Sean Cox 5 Devin Toner
Stuart McInally 6 Kevin McLaughlin
Dimitri Basilaia 7 Sean O'Brien
David Denton 8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Steven Lawrie 16 Aaron Dundon
Robin Hislop 17 Heinke van der Merwe
Geoff Cross 18 Michael Bent
Perry Parker 19 Tom Denton
Netani Talei 20 Shane Jennings
Richie Rees 21 Isaac Boss
James King 22 Ian Madigan
Sep Visser 23 Andrew Conway

Not Considered
due to Injury

Tom Brown,
Nick De Luca,
Lee Jones,
Jamie Farndale,
Ross Ford,
Ross Rennie,
Steven Turnbull,
George Turner,
Izak van der Westhuizen,
John Yapp


Mark Flanagan,
David Doyle,
Darren Hudson,
Richardt Strauss,
Isa Nacewa,
Eoin O'Malley,
Dave Kearney,
Damien Browne
Officials Referee: Ian Davies (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Bob Nevins (both SRU),
TMO: Jim Yuille (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-01-03

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