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Edinburgh Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh,
Friday, 28th October 2011, 19:35

Television: Live BBC Alba, Delayed coverage on TG4 & Setanta

So the World Cup is over for another four years. Well, at least this time we had a few nice moments before it all ended, once again, in soul-destroying disappointment. But that's enough of that for another four years and we can now get the season going properly.

Of all the places to restart the season though, Joe Schmidt would have had Murrayfield on a Friday night at the bottom of the list. Murrayfield is a fine stadium when full as we saw in the Heineken Cup final in 2009, however when it's empty it's the most depressing ground in the league. With several of Leinster's World Cup squad returning to provincial action for the first time, it is not the type of place to lift the spirits.

Leinster have to beware though, because although they're second last in the table, Edinburgh's record over the years against Leinster has always been good. Last season Leinster travelled over in September to face an Edinburgh team that had lost it's last seven league games. Leinster had named a very strong team but they put in their worst performance of the season as Edinburgh scored four tries in a comfortable 32-24 win.

Edinburgh have struggled on the road this season, but they've won both their last two home matches, which were both against Irish opposition in Munster and Connacht. That last win was particularly satisfying for Michael Bradley, the former Connacht coach. They've actually won five of their last six home games so they have to be respected on their own turf.

Bradley welcomes back several of his internationals who were on World Cup duty. The hugely experienced Chris Paterson is back at full-back and he links up with Simon Webster and Dutch try machine Tim Visser in a fine back three. Nick de Luca is also back after impressing in the World Cup and he partners young Matt Scott in midfield. Greig Laidlaw captains the side from half back where he'll partner 19-year-old Harry Leonard, who makes his first start.

The international front row of Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford and Geoff Cross all come straight back in. In the second row Argentinean Esteban Lozada partners Steve Turnbull. Dave Denton, Roddy Grant and Stuart McInally are the back now. The front row and back three apart, it's certainly a less than stellar line-up, but the same thing was said about the Glasgow team that won in the RDS last month.

Leinster have plenty of players back from the World Cup and have named a team that shows nine changes plus a positional switch. Jonathan Sexton is back and he'll be looking to put a difficult World Cup behind him by hitting the ground running. He'll partner Isaac Boss who comes in for Cillian Willis, whose short-term contact is over. Fergus McFadden returns at inside centre to partner Eoin O'Malley, which means Luke Fitzgerald is free to return to the left wing in place of Fionn Carr. With Isa Nacewa given a rare week off, Rob Kearney plays at full back alongside his brother David Kearney who's on the right wing.

In the pack there are four changes with Heinke van der Merwe the only member of the front row to retain his place. Mike Ross makes a somewhat surprising early return to the team at tighthead prop, given how much he played in New Zealand. Alongside him, a fellow Munsterman Sean Cronin makes his competitive Leinster debut at hooker. Leo Cullen is back to captain the side from the second row and Devin Toner is rewarded for his recent good form by keeping his place there ahead of Steven Sykes. In the back row the only change is the return of Dominic Ryan to play at openside in place of Rhys Ruddock. Kevin McLaughlin and Leo Auva'a complete the side.

It's certainly a strong enough Leinster team on paper to get the win, but we've been here before so many times and still ended up losing. Hopefully Schmidt will be hammering home the message that respecting the opposition is paramount and they'll come out fired up and do the job needed.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Edinburgh Rugby
Teams Rob Kearney
15 Chris Paterson
David Kearney 14 Simon Webster
Eoin O'Malley 13 Nick de Luca
Fergus McFadden
12 Matt Scott
Luke Fitzgerald 11 Tim Visser
Jonathan Sexton
10 Harry Leonard
Isaac Boss
9 Greig Laidlaw

Heinke van der Merwe 1 Allan Jacobsen
Sean Cronin
2 Ross Ford
Mike Ross
3 Geoff Cross
Leo Cullen (C)
4 Esteban Lozada
Devin Toner 5 Steve Turnbull
Kevin McLaughlin 6 Dave Denton
Dominic Ryan
7 Roddy Grant
Leo Auva'a 8 Stuart McInally

Replacements Richardt Strauss 16 Steven Lawrie
Jack McGrath 17 Kyle Traynor
Nathan White
18 Lewis Niven
Steven Sykes 19 Grant Gilchrist
Rhys Ruddock 20 Netani Talei
John Cooney 21 Mike Blair
Ian Madigan
22 Jim Thompson
Fionn Carr
23 Tom Brown

Not Considered
due to Injury
Mat Berquist,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Shane Horgan,
Simon Shawe,
Tom Sexton,
Ben Marshall

Officials Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU),
Assistant Referees: David Changleng, Archie McInally (both SRU),
TMO: Iain Heard (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-10-31