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Leinster Rugby vs Edinburgh Rugby
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 30 October 2010, 18:05

Television: Live: RTE 2

Leinster meet Edinburgh tomorrow evening at the RDS hoping to make it a perfect October with five wins from five. Circumstances have made this task a lot tougher though. As Ireland play South Africa next weekend, Leinster are severely depleted by players held back by the Irish management. Normally Edinburgh would be in the same boat but as Scotland don't have a match until the 13th of November they have full access to their players this week.

A full strength Edinburgh team is not something to be taken lightly either, as they were the last team to beat Leinster before they went on their current winning run. Five weeks ago in Murrayfield, Edinburgh beat them 32-24, a score that doesn't tell the story of how comprehensive their victory was. Leinster had a strong team out that night but they put in a woeful performance that had some of the more hysterical members of the rugby media questioning Joe Schmidt's future after only four games in charge. A huge amount has changed since that miserable night in Edinburgh but for Leinster to maintain their progress up the table they'll have to find a way to win tomorrow.

Edinburgh haven't won a match in Dublin since winning a Magners League tie in Donnybrook in November 2005. In those days Leinster used the Bective changing rooms and all that separated the team from the patrons using the adjacent toilets at half time was a clumsily erected sheet of plywood. So the patrons could quite clearly hear Michael Cheika's half-time team talk and let's just say sailors would have blushed at some of the language. It's amazing to think how much has changed at Leinster since those days.

Edinburgh didn't have a good start to their Heineken Cup campaign, losing both their pool matches to Cardiff and Northampton. Their Magners League record so far this season is almost identical to Leinster's lying on fourteen points with three wins from six. They're both exactly in mid-table in sixth and seventh place with only points difference separating them. Edinburgh lost their first three matches before bouncing back with wins in their last three games against Leinster, Aironi and Ulster. With a two-week break in the Magners League coming up after this match both teams will be desperate for a win to keep their momentum going.

Edinburgh have made seven changes, one positional, to the team that started last week. The big news is that David Blair is out injured so his brother Alex comes in for him to make his senior debut at out-half. Alex was the Scotland under-20's out-half last season and he looks a very talented prospect. It's a big ask to make his debut at the RDS though but at least he'll have another brother, Mike, playing at scrum-half to help him through, as he's recovered from a virus to come in for Greig Laidlaw. There's a new centre pairing as well as Alex Grove and John Houston come in for Ben Cairns and the injured James King. The unchanged back three of Chris Paterson, Jim Thompson and Tim Visser, is a very dangerous unit.

In the pack, Lions hooker Ross Ford comes in for Andrew Kelly in the only change to the front five. Young Fraser McKensie had a big game in the loose against Ulster and he'll need to be watched. In the backrow captain Roddy Grant is back at number eight, which means impressive Fijian Netani Talei switches to blindside flanker in place of Alan McDonald. It's an impressive eight and Leinster's pack will remember how Edinburgh ran through them for fun at Murrayfield and that was without Talei and McKensie.

Last week Leinster did what they needed to do to get a win in Galway. As predicted, it was far from pretty but wins against Connacht rarely are. Most importantly their attitude was correct from the start, which showed in their defensive performance. They battered Connacht in the tackle right from the first minute not allowing them to get any real foothold in the match. After conceding nine tries in their first four games of the season, Leinster have only conceded two in their last four. They'll need to maintain that type of defensive performance against an Edinburgh team who's scored four tries against them in both of their last two meetings.

It will be tougher to achieve this with a team with several changes from last weekend. In the backs Isa Nacewa moves to fullback and Andrew Conway makes his first start of the season on the left wing. There is a young half-back pairing named in Paul O'Donohoe and Ian Madigan. O'Donohoe makes his first appearance of the season in place of Isaac Boss, who drops to the bench where he's joined by Shaun Berne who has recovered from injury to feature in the match squad for the first time this season. Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden and Eoin O'Malley retain their positions from last week.

In the pack Heinke van der Merwe comes in for Cian Healy at loosehead prop alongside hooker Richardt Strauss who was man of the match last week. At tighthead, new signing Clint Newland is bracketed with Mike Ross, who has been training with Ireland all week.  A decision as to who starts will be made closer to the kick-off. In the second row, Nathan Hines comes in for Devin Toner, who was also training with Ireland for most of the week. In the backrow Dominic Ryan and Stephen Keogh come in for Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip. Ryan scored his second try of the season last week and he'll be itching to show what he can do from the start. Stephen Keogh hasn't featured for the first team since the nightmare in Murrayfield so he'll be eager to remind the management of his abilities. Leo Cullen reclaims the captaincy and no doubt he'll be sick of Heaslip's boasts about his perfect record as skipper and will be eager to show who's the real guv'nor!

Edinburgh will want to play their usual expansive game that normally wreaks havoc against Leinster so the home team will probably look to play a more controlled game to counter this. Leinster have a strong enough pack out to earn plenty of quality ball so a lot will depend on the young half-backs to bring the dangermen in the backline into play. It's a tough task for Leinster but provided the experienced players show leadership, they should have just enough to grind out a tight win.

Match Statistics

Leinster Rugby
Edinburgh Rugby

Teams Isa Nacewa 15 Chris Paterson
Shane Horgan 14 Jim Thompson
Eoin O'Malley
13 Alex Grove
Fergus McFadden
12 John Houston
Andrew Conway
11 Tim Visser
Ian Madigan
10 Alex Blair
Paul O'Donohoe
9 Mike Blair

Heinke van der Merwe
1 Allan Jacobsen
Richardt Strauss
2 Ross Ford
Mike Ross
3 Geoff Cross
Leo Cullen (C)
4 Scott MacLeod
Nathan Hines
5 Fraser McKenzie
Dominic Ryan
6 Netani Talei
Shane Jennings 7 Ross Rennie
Stephen Keogh
8 Roddy Grant (C)

Replacements Jason Harris-Wright
16 Andrew Kelly
Jack McGrath
17 Kyle Traynor
Simon Shawe
18 David Young
Devin Toner
19 Esteban Lozada
Rhys Ruddock
20 Scott Newlands
Isaac Boss
21 Greig Laidlaw
Shaun Berne
22 David Bishop
David Kearney
23 Mark Robertson

Not considered
due to injury
Stan Wright,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Ed O'Donoghue,
John Fogarty,
Brian O'Driscoll

David Blair,
Phil Godman,
Nick De Luca,
James King
Officials Referee: Carlo Damasco (FIR)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Jude Quinn (both IRFU)
4th Official: Dudley Phillips (Leinster Rugby Referees)
5th Oficial: Glenn Sheridan (Leinster Rugby Referees)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2010-10-31