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Edinburgh Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Friday 24th September 2010, 19:05

Television: Live RTE2/BBC Alba

After last week's heavy defeat in a rain-sodden Treviso, Leinster would have loved to come back to the warm embrace of the RDS. Instead they're off to draughty Murrayfield where the voices of the few thousand that turn up will echo around the rows of empty seats. When full, Murrayfield is an excellent venue but when empty it's a depressing place for fans and players alike. Nevertheless, Leinster's players don't have time to feel sorry for themselves. With Munster arriving at the Aviva stadium next week, followed by Heineken Cup matches against Racing Metro and Saracens, Leinster need to find their feet and quick.

Last week was a massive disappointment; the first time an Irish province has lot to an Italian club in a competitive match. The result in itself was no disgrace, as Treviso deserved their win and it won't be the last upset at the Stadio Di Monigo this season. Once again though it was the manner of the defeat that will have rankled with fans. As in both their previous matches this season Leinster got off to a great start, which they promptly threw away. Most of their play was utterly clueless, like they didn't know what the game plan was. Again, there was a distinct lack of leadership when things started to go wrong and their discipline went out the window. It was reminiscent of the bad old days when Leinster went on the road and promptly fell apart. It's far too early to be pointing fingers at the new coach, so the players have to hold their hands up and take responsibility.

However, if Leinster think they're desperate for a win, they should spare a thought for their opponents tomorrow evening. Last week's defeat in Ravenhill was Edinburgh's seventh straight Magners League defeat. Last season, they looked odds on for a spot in the top four until a disastrous end of season run of four consecutive defeats saw them miss out. This season that form has continued as they've lost their first three matches to Cardiff, Munster and Ulster. It's hard to know exactly where things have gone wrong for Edinburgh as they haven't been that badly affected by injuries. Indeed looking at the side they've named for tomorrow, it looks pretty strong.

Edinburgh have made two changes in the pack from the team that lost to Ulster. International open-side Ross Rennie is back from injury and his return means captain Roddy Grant moves to number eight in place of Netani Talei, who picked up a knock last week. Scott Newlands at blind-side completes a very mobile backrow. The other change is in the second row where Argentine lock Esteban Lozada returns in place of Craig Hamilton to partner Scott MacLeod. It's good to see Lozada back after recovering from the head injury that needed lengthy on-pitch treatment in their match against Munster. Allan Jacobsen and Geoff Cross prop down either side of Lions hooker Ross Ford in a strong and experienced front row.

Coach Rob Moffat had originally named an unchanged backline but they were rocked on Tuesday when international fly-half Phil Godman sustained a serious knee injury in training which could put him out for six months. So David Blair is promoted from the bench to form a half-back pairing with his brother Mike. Alex Grove, who was signed from Gloucester in the summer, partners Ben Cairns in the centre. Chris Paterson has recovered from the knock he sustained against Ulster to take his place at full-back and Mark Robertson and Tim Visser complete a dangerous back three.

Leinster have made eight changes from the starting line-up which lost to Treviso. Shane Horgan returns from injury to form a back three with Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney, who makes his 100th appearance for Leinster, quite a feat considering he's still only 24 years old. Brian O'Driscoll comes back in at centre to partner Gordon D'Arcy with Eoin O'Malley joining Isa Nacewa on the bench. Perhaps most importantly, Jonny Sexton is finally fit to make his first start of the season at out-half. He'll partner Eoin Reddan, who'll be looking for a much-improved performance to keep the challenge of Isaac Boss at bay.

In the front row Heinke van der Merwe and Richardt Strauss are back in place of Cian Healy and John Fogarty. Healy is on the bench but Fogarty is out of the squad entirely with Jason Harris-Wright taking the replacement hooker slot. Nathan Hines is another to drop out of the squad as Devin Toner comes in for his first start of the season after recovering from a shoulder injury. In the back row there are two more changes as Dominic Ryan and Stephen Keogh replace Rhys Ruddock and Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip is sure to be sprung from the bench as well.

O'Brien was yesterday cleared of making contact with the eyes of Treviso player Enrico Pavenello at a disciplinary hearing, but after starting the first three matches he was probably due a break anyway. O'Brien can count himself fortunate though and hopefully will learn to never put his hands near an opponents face. Regardless of their intentions all it takes is one dodgy camera angle and a player can be out for three months. After what happened to Shane Jennings last season, all Leinster players should already know this.

Both teams have named very strong line-ups that won't change that much when they begin their European campaigns in a fortnight. Tomorrow, though they'll both settle for any sort of a victory to give morale a boost. If Leinster are to win however, they'll need their big names to stand up and be counted.

Team Lineups
  Edinburgh Rugby
Leinster Rugby
Teams Chris Paterson
15 Robert Kearney
Mark Robertson
14 Shane Horgan
Ben Cairns
13 Brian O'Driscoll
Alex Grove
12 Gordon D'Arcy
Tim Visser
11 Luke Fitzgerald
David Blair
10 Isa Nacewa
Mike Blair
9 Eion Reddan

Allan Jacobsen
1 Heinke van der Merwe
Ross Ford
2 Richardt Strauss
Geoff Cross
3 Mike Ross
Esteban Lozada
4 Ed O'Donoghue
Scott MacLeod
5 Devin Toner
Scott Newlands
6 Dominic Ryan
Ross Rennie
7 Shane Jennings (C)
Roddy Grant (C)
8 Stephen Keogh

Replacements Andrew Kelly
16 Jason Harris-Wright
Kyle Traynor
17 Cian Healy
Jack Gilding
18 Simon Shawe
Craig Hamilton
19 Mariano Galarza
Dave Denton
20 Jamie Heaslip
Greig Laidlaw
21 Isaac Boss
John Houston
22 Ian Madigan
Tom Brown 23 Eoin O'Malley
Not Considered
due to Injury

Stan Wright,
Leo Cullen,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Shaun Berne,
Jonathan Sexton

by Jim O'Connor, © 2010-09-25