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Murrayfield, Edinburgh,
Saturday, 15 December 2007, 15:50
Television: Live - Sky Sports 2, Highlights RTE 2 at 11.30.

Leinster face Edinburgh in Murrayfield on Saturday in the second part of their Heineken Cup double-header.  Last week's game left a bit of a sour taste for Leinster supporters.  Half an hour in, Leinster were two tries up and dominant.  A bonus point win looked inevitable but then the game changed.  Whether it was arrogance on the part of the backs or strategy from the bench, Leinster changed their game plan.  Suddenly the backs were running everything and mistakes started to creep in.  This played into the hands of the Edinburgh side who came back into the game in the second half.  Indeed, had the Scottish side not missed several kicks at goal, it could have been an even tenser night for Leinster fans.

Afterwards some Leinster players tried to spin a yarn that they didn't mind missing out on the bonus point, but their body language told a different story.  They knew they had messed up big-time.  Some people dispute the importance of bonus points, but you only have to look at the previous two seasons to see how vital they can be.  In both of the last two seasons Leinster lost two games in the pool stages.  Yet both times they still qualified.  That was due to the bonus points, five last season and six the season before.  This season, after three matches, they have none!  There's even a possibility that Leinster could win all three of their remaining games and still not qualify, due to the lack of bonus points.  So while the win is all-important, they will definitely have one eye on the extra point.

Edinburgh won't be worried about bonus points as they are out of the competition after three defeats.  However they will still be a strongly motivated outfit, especially after their encouraging second half performance last week.  They have made a couple of changes from the team that started last week.  Augusto Allori replaces Allan Jacobson in the front row after coming on in the first half last week.  In the backs Simon Webster returns from injury to take his place on the wing.  Webster has traditionally done well against Leinster so he'll fancy his chances of making an impact.  John Houston, who scored a try from the wing last weekend, moves to inside centre in place of Matt Dey who drops out of the squad.  There's a notable addition to the bench in Ali Hogg, one of Scotland's best back-rows.   He's only recently returned from injury but if the game is close, he could make a big impact from the bench.

For Leinster, "new" signing Guy Easterby makes his debut, after returning to the club on a short-term contract this week. As a result of this, Willis is unlucky not only to drop out of the starting 15, but out of the matchday 22 completely, with Keane retaining his place on the bench. Elsewhere, Dempsey makes a return from injury and immediately retakes his place in the starting 15, despite the good form of both Kearney and Fitzgerald. The latter is the one to lose out, with Kearney moving to the wing to make room for Dempsey. Fitzgerald retains a place in the 22, taking his place on the bench at the expense of Gary Brown.

So it's do or die for Leinster now.  The lack of bonus points mean there is no safety net anymore.  They need three wins from three to go through and it starts this Saturday.  To win they'll need to trust their pack, which was excellent again last week.  It's time for the backs to step up to the mark and match their standard of performance.  For years the backs had the pack to use as a scapegoat when things went wrong.  Those days are over.

Match Statistics
  Edinburgh Rugby   Leinster Rugby
Teams Ben Cairns 15 Girvan Dempsey
Andrew Turnbull 14 Shane Horgan
Nick De Luca 13 Brian O'Driscoll (C)
John Houston 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Simon Webster 11 Robert Kearney
Phil Godman 10 Felipe Contepomi
Mike Blair (C) 9 Guy Easterby
 
Allan Jacobsen 1 Ollie Le Roux
Ross Ford 2 Bernard Jackman
Augusto Allori 3 Stan Wright
Matt Mustchin 4 Leo Cullen
Ben Gissing 5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Simon Cross 6 Stephen Keogh
Ross Rennie 7 Shane Jennings
Ali Hogg 8 Jamie Heaslip
 
Replacements Andrew Kelly 16 Brian Blaney
Geoff Cross 17 Cian Healy
Craig Hamilton 18 Cameron Jowitt
Roland Reid 19 Keith Gleeson
Ben Meyer 20 Chris Keane
David Blair 21 Jonathan Sexton
Calum MacRae 22 Luke Fitzgerald
 
Not Considered
due to Injury

  Trevor Hogan
Ronnie McCormack
Fergus McFadden
Chris Whitaker
Officials Referee: Tim Hayes (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2007-12-20

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