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Leinster Rugby vs Edinburgh Rugby
Guinness Pro14, Round 5
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Friday, 29th September 2017, 19:35

TV: Live on TG4

Let's just say Leinster won't be in any rush to go back to South Africa anytime soon.

A tour beset by problems from the start ended in a comprehensive defeat to the Cheetahs last Friday. The Cheetahs were worthy winners, powerful up front and quick out wide, but Leinster were very poor. Their defending in particular was appalling. Despite the easy win over the Kings the week before, Leinster actually managed to miss 31 tackles in that match (Rory O'Loughlin alone managed to miss a remarkable seven!) They missed another 27 tackles last week but the Cheetahs were more able to take advantage than the hopeless Kings.

In truth, Leinster have largely played poorly this season, the three bonus point wins over poor opposition covering up the cracks. However if we're honest, it's rare that the rugby is of any great standard in the first few weeks of the season. With three big games against Munster, Montpellier and Glasgow starting next weekend, it's no harm to have a bit of a kick in the arse to focus minds and get standards back up to scratch. Tomorrow evening they take on Edinburgh who have two wins from four games this season.

It's been a mixed start to life in the Scottish capital for former Leicester coach Richard Cockerill. They started off with a fine win away to Cardiff and then hammered the Dragons at home. But then they suffered a shock defeat at home to Benetton before being well beaten by the champions Scarlets last week. Despite once being the leaders in Scottish rugby circles, they have now been the poor relations to Glasgow for a good few years. It's going to be hard to see how Cockerill can turn it around but he would do well to look at how Glasgow have done things in terms of developing local players and adopting an exciting but pragmatic style of rugby.

Cockerill has named a team showing nine changes to the starting side which lost last weekend. In the back-three, Glenn Bryce and Dougie Fife come to join Tom Brown. In the centre, Scotland Sevens star James Jonhstone is partnered by Phil Burleigh. A new half-back partnership sees Jason Tovey make his first start of the season alongside Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. In the front-row, Stuart McInally continues at hooker and will pack down alongside Simon Berghan and Darryl Marfo. Grant Gilchrist is joined in the second-row by Fraser McKenzie, who skippers the side on his first start of the season. The final change sees Cornell du Preez replace Magnus Bradbury at number eight.

For Leinster there's a much needed return of international quality in the shape of four or their five summer Lions in Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Sean O'Brien and Johnny Sexton who takes over as captain in place of the injured Isa Nacewa. Luke McGrath is fit again to start at scrum-half and Fergus McFadden and Rory O'Loughlin come back into the three-quarter line. There's a virtually whole new pack with only Jordi Murphy retained from the last day. He switches back to openside to allow for the return of Rhys Ruddock at blindside and O'Brien is named at number eight. Devin Toner and Scott Fardy return to the second row after a two week break and hooker Sean Cronin packs down alongside the two Lions props in the front row.

With the returning internationals back, fans might expect everything to click right away but generally it takes them a game or two to re-integrate. So expect a scrappy enough game, especially as Edinburgh are masters at frustrating Leinster. So Leinster will win, but don't expect a classic!

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Edinburgh Rugby
Teams Joey Carbery 15 Glenn Bryce
Fergus McFadden 14 Tom Brown
Rory O'Loughlin
13 James Johnstone
Noel Reid 12 Phil Burleigh
Dave Kearney 11 Dougie Fife
Johnny Sexton (C) 10 Jason Tovey
Luke McGrath 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne

Jack McGrath 1 Darryl Marfo
Sean Cronin 2 Stuart McInally
Tadhg Furlong 3 Simon Berghan
Devin Toner 4 Fraser McKenzie (C)
Scott Fardy
5 Grant Gilchrist
Rhys Ruddock 6 Jamie Ritchie
Jordi Murphy 7 Hamish Watson
Sean O'Brien 8 Cornell du Preez

Replacements Bryan Byrne 16 Neil Cochrane
Ed Byrne
17 Murray McCallum
Andrew Porter
18 Kevin Bryce
Ross Molony 19 Anton Bresler
Max Deegan 20
John Hardie
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Nathan Fowles
Ross Byrne 22 Blair Kinghorn
Jordan Larmour 23 Robbie Fruean

Not Considered
due to Injury
Tom Daly,
Peadar Timmins,
Robbie Henshaw,
Jamie Heaslip,
Garry Ringrose,
Richardt Strauss,
Rob Kearney,
Dan Leavy,
Ian Nagle,
James Ryan,
Isa Nacewa

Officials Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 66th competition game)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-09-28