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Edinburgh vs Leinster Rugby,
Murrayfield, Edinburgh,
29th October 2006, 13:00

Leinster head into their third trip to Edinburgh in six months buoyed by a bonus point win over Gloucester last weekend. There were a lot of positives last weekend, but some negatives and the word from the camp all week has been the need for an improved performance.

In the past, Leinster have been guilty of under-estimating Edinburgh and have come a cropper as a result. Hopefully this time it will be different. In truth, it's easy to see why Leinster have often been strong favourites. When you look at the teamsheets, Leinster have often had more quality players. But Edinburgh's record against Leinster proves that rugby isn't played on paper. Since the formation of the Magners/Celtic League, they've won 5 of the 7 match-ups. Add in the two Heineken Cup games where they won in Scotland and held Leinster to a disastrous draw in Donnybrook and our record is two wins from nine! Now admittedly there has been some extenuating circumstances in these games, such as missing internationals, but it emphatically emphasises that Edinburgh are to be respected.

Last week Edinburgh were unlucky to lose to a late penalty in Agen. However, they secured a bonus point and will be hungry to have a go at Leinster again. Edinburgh are not a team laden with household names but they do have some real quality to call on. Scrum-half Mike Blair is currently keeping Chris Cusiter out of the Scotland team, which is no mean feat (as we know, considering Cusiter's performance for Borders against us two weeks ago.) Another danger man is Rob Dewey at inside centre. At 6.3 ft and 17st 8lb, he's a big unit who caused Leinster a lot of problems in the defeat earlier in the season. He's partnered in midfield by the experienced international Marcus Di Rollo.

In the pack injuries have taken their toll. They've lost their two international backrows Simon Taylor and Ali Hogg. Hogg in particular is a huge loss, considering the massive influence he had in the 20-14 win back in September. Taylor is of course a huge loss too, but the number eight has been so unfortunate with injuries that Edinburgh are more used to being without him. In the absence of those two the pack will look for leadership to lock Scott Murray. Murray is a renowned lineout poacher and he will partner former Ulster player Matt Mustchin in the second row. They have an all-international front row in Allan Jacobsen, Dougie Hall and Craig Smith. Their pack is strong and very mobile and this is the basis of their gameplan.

Edinburgh have found that various Leinster teams over the last six years have struggled against their style. They play a very quick, possession based game, backs and forwards joining together passing the ball touchline to touchline. They try to stretch teams and tire them out through constant defending. It takes a lot of stamina to combat this and that's where Leinster have come up short in the past.

In short it's going to require a massive defensive effort to keep them out. Leinster have the team to do this but the attitude must be right from the start. To this end, the traveling fans have a huge role to play. One of the highlights of last season was the game in Edinburgh. As the Leinster players came off the pitch from their warm-up you could see the amazement on their faces as they saw the 150 fans who had traveled over. Imagine their reaction when they see the 1,000 or so supporters who'll hopefully make the trip over this weekend.

So do your best to roar the boys on this Sunday!


by Jim O'Connor, © 2006-10-29