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Leinster Rugby vs Edinburgh Rugby
Royal Dublin Showground
Friday, 12 September 2008, 19:30

Season Ticket: Magners League 1
Television: Live - Setanta Sports 1, Delayed Coverage - Setanta Ireland 21:05

Ah...Edinburgh! For most Irish people Edinburgh represents a city of great beauty, a place of great culture, the heart of the Scottish government or just a fine place to socialise for a weekend. For a certain subculture of Irish people however, Edinburgh represents nothing but misery, frustration and failure. In fact, it has been renamed "F***ing Edinburgh" by many of these fans; e.g. "Remember Leinster were going so well that season and then we went to f***ing Edinburgh!"

The trip to Murrayfield has become an annual trek of despair for Leinster fans lately, particularly in the Heineken Cup. Two seasons ago, the failure to protect a one point lead pretty much cost Leinster a home quarter-final while last season a resounding nineteen point defeat reduced Leinster to the sorry position of being out of Europe before Christmas. What made these defeats all the more infuriating was the complacency shown by both the team and fans towards Edinburgh beforehand. No matters how many times Edinburgh beat Leinster (the record is 9-6 to them with one draw in the professional era) Edinburgh continue to be seen as a soft touch, a handy win. The arrogance of this approach has cost Leinster so many times now that you really hope the pain of last December's defeat will finally erase it.

Edinburgh are a team deserving of both the fan's and team's respect. Since the disastrous tenure of the Carruthers brothers, when it seemed the club was in danger of oblivion, things have settled down on the administrative side and there now seems real hope for the future. One of the big reasons for this was the arrival of Andy Robinson last year. Many in the game saw Robinson as something of a joke after his wretched term in charge of England. He arrived in pre-season to find most of the marquee talent (Scott Murray, Simon Taylor, Rob Dewey & Chris Paterson etc.) gone and had a squad largely comprised of kids and journeymen. Yet Robinson quickly got them organised and motivated and suddenly they were a different team, capable of playing some great rugby and more importantly, becoming a hard team to beat. A fourth place Magners League finish was a highly creditable effort given the outlook at the beginning of the season.

This season, they have ambitions to improve further and the return of prodigal son Paterson plus pre-season wins against Wasps and Bath caused quite a buzz. However the home defeat to Munster last week put a crimp in their step and they have a number of players out injured like Ross Rennie, David Callam, Simon Webster, Ben Cairns and Alan McDonald. Scott Newlands replacing McDonald at open-side is the only change from the team that started against Munster last week. This means that Matt Mustchin, the former Ulster lock who was capped by Scotland in the summer, continues in the back row with the experienced Ali Hogg completing the unit. Former Leinster favourite Ben Gissing features in a rugged tight five in which tighthead Geoff Cross has been tipped as one to watch.

Mike Blair, who could well be the Lions scrum-half this summer, captains the team and he partners Phil Godman who's looked increasingly assured in the fly-half role. With the excellent place-kicker Chris Paterson on the wing, Leinster will need to be careful about conceding penalties and Hugo Southwell and Nick DeLuca are also dangerous attackers.

Leinster made an unexceptional start last week too, earning a rather fortuitous draw in Cardiff despite a scrappy, error-strewn performance. Even allowing for early season cobwebs, the backrow had a particularly bad time of it at the breakdown, so it's perhaps a little surprising that it's the only area in the pack that coach Michael Chieka has left unchanged. Trevor Hogan replaces Devin Toner in the second row and in the front row Stan Wright makes a very welcome return after shaking off a knee injury. He plays at tight-head and Ronnie McCormack moves over to loose-head to accommodate him. Cian Healy drops to the bench and Stephen Knoop drops out of the squad altogether. The Cameron Jowitt - Jamie Heaslip - Shane Jennings back-row is retained despite the claims of Sean O'Brien who once again impressed off the bench last week. As a unit they will be looking for a major improvement in an area that Edinburgh are traditionally strong.

The backs are rotated as well with Luke Fitzgerald and Girvan Dempsey replacing Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa respectively. Dempsey looked back to his old self when he came on last week and will look to combine well with Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney in an exciting looking back three. Jonny Sexton was taken off early last weekend so he'll be looking to bounce back this week with a dominant performance. Felipe Contepomi and Brian O'Driscoll will be looking to add a touch more dynamism to their game to create more chances outside them.

With a rejuvenated Ospreys making a flying start to their campaign, Leinster will not want to be left behind so a win tomorrow is vital. If they can get early control of the breakdown and the backs can hit the line from deep to stretch the Edinburgh defense, then the win should come. However, they need to be wary of Edinburgh's challenge, no matter what their team-sheet looks like.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Edinburgh Rugby
Teams Girvan Dempsey 15 Hugo Southwell
Luke Fitzgerald
14 Mark Robertson
Brian O'Driscoll 13 Calum MacRae
Felipe Contepomi 12 Nick De Luca
Rob Kearney 11 Chris Paterson
Jonathan Sexton 10 Phil Godman
Chris Whitaker (C)
9 Mike Blair (C)

Ronan McCormack
1 Allan Jacobsen
Bernard Jackman 2 Ross Ford
Stan Wright 3 Geoff Cross
Trevor Hogan
4 Craig Hamilton
Malcolm O'Kelly 5 Ben Gissing
Cameron Jowitt
6 Matt Mustchin
Shane Jennings 7 Allister Hogg
Jamie Heaslip 8 Scott Newlands

Replacements Cian Healy
16 Steve Lawrie
John Fogarty
17 Gavin Kerr
Devin Toner
18 Steve Turnbull
Sean O'Brien
19 Andrew Kelly
Chris Keane 20 Greig Laidlaw
Shane Horgan
21 David Blair
Isa Nacewa
22 Andrew Turnbull

Not considered
due to injury
Gordon D'Arcy
Leo Cullen

Officials Referee: Tim Hayes (WRU)
Assistant Referees: M. Black (IRFU), J. Peake (IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)
4th Official: Paul Haycock (ARLB)
5th Official: Ed Kenny (ARLB)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2008-09-12