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Edinburgh Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro14, Round 14
Myreside, Edinburgh,
Friday, 9th February 2018, 19:35

TV: Live on TG4/BBC Alba

In the end Leinster finished off their European pool in style with an excellent win in Montpellier to make it six wins from six and top the overall seeding. Their "reward" for such excellence is a home quarter-final against current champions Saracens. The double champions are going to be tough but if you're going to get them, best to get them at home I suppose. But that's seven weeks away and there's a huge amount of rugby to be played before then both for Leinster's large international contingent and the players left behind to keep the Pro14 challenge going.

Leinster have five league games to play before the Saracens match including a double-header against the champions Scarlets but they start with a tricky away trip to Edinburgh. The Scots are still in Glasgow's shadow but under former Leicester coach Richard Cockerill, they're having a very decent season. They're in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup with a home tie against Cardiff to look forward to. In the league they've got 8 wins from 13 games and are now only three points behind Ulster in the race to make the top three in Conference B. As Glasgow have the lions share of the international spots these days, they're not as badly affected by international callups, there was only six players in the squad last week against Wales.

Cockerill has named international Dougie Fife at fullback and he is is joined in the back-three by wings Darcy Graham and the South African Duhan van der Merwe. Another Scotland international Mark Bennett is named in the centre alongside Chris Dean while Nathan Fowles and Jaco van der Walt form the half-back partnership.

In the front-row, Jordan Lay starts at loosehead and packs down alongside Cameron Fenton and Murray McCallum, who returns to Edinburgh duty after making his Scotland debut against Wales. Lewis Carmichael and Fraser McKenzie are the second-row, whilst academy graduate Luke Crosbie returns to the starting side to link up with Jamie Ritchie and Bill Mata in the back-row.

For Leinster they are dealing with having around twenty-odd players unavailable due to either injury or international commitments. But this period has always been fruitful for Leinster to give younger players a chance to prove themselves and then go on to greater things. One player the youngsters will be able to depend on is Michael Bent, who is named at tighthead prop to make his 100th Leinster appearance.

Bent hasn't always been a favourite with fans and he had a tough start to his time in Ireland when a propping emergency saw him parachuted into a cap for Ireland before he'd even played for Leinster. Even though he wasn't a project player (he qualified through a grandparent) Bent became a lightning rod in the media for the "they took err jobs" types bemoaning Ireland giving our caps to 'them foreigners, like" ahead of "lads from the parish, like Bobby-Joe"! The fact that the only alternative, Stephen Archer, was of such poor quality at the time that it was actually unsafe to put him on a field against South Africa, was beyond the mob's understanding. Bent wasn't great by any means but he survived.

At times he struggled at tighthead prop and made his name over the next few years as a decent loosehead and a "break in case of emergency" tighthead. But it must be said, his scrummaging on the tight side has improved massively over the last couple of seasons to the point where he's actually become quite an effective weapon off the bench to come on and win a few penalties there in the last quarter of matches. He may even have featured in the Ireland squad recently but Joe Schmidt has understandably favoured the up and coming Andrew Porter ahead of him. However Bent is a very popular and hugely valuable member of the squad, content to train away and do a job whenever he's called upon.

He's named in front row alongside Peter Dooley and Richardt Strauss who returns from injury to skipper the team. Ross Molony and Scott Fardy are the second rows with Josh Murphy, Max Deegan and debutant Will Connors making up a young but exciting back row. Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are the halves with Noel Reid and Rory O'Loughlin in the centre. Fergus McFadden is released from the Ireland squad to play on the right wing with Barry Daly on the left and Dave Kearney returning from a log absence to play at full back. Ciaran Frawley will also make his first Leinster start if he's sprung from a bench that also features Luke McGrath and the fit-again Adam Byrne.

It's a decent Leinster team in the circumstances although a little callow in places. Edinburgh look strong too though and it could be a tight contest settled by a single score.

Team Lineups

Edinburgh Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Dougie Fife 15 Dave Kearney
Darcy Graham 14 Fergus McFadden
Mark Bennett 13 Rory O'Loughlin
Chris Dean 12 Noel Reid
Duhan van der Merwe 11 Barry Daly
Jaco van der Walt 10 Ross Byrne
Nathan Fowles 9 Jamison Gibson-Park

Jordan Lay 1 Peter Dooley
Cameron Fenton 2 Richardt Strauss (C)
Murray McCallum 3 Michael Bent
Fraser McKenzie (C)
4 Ross Molony
Lewis Carmichael 5 Scott Fardy
Luke Crosbie 6 Josh Murphy
Jamie Ritchie 7 Will Connors
Bill Mata 8 Max Deegan

Replacements Neil Cochrane 16 Bryan Byrne
Rory Sutherland 17 Ed Byrne
Matt Shields 18 Oisin Heffernan
Magnus Bradbury 19 Mick Kearney
John Hardie 20
Peadar Timmins
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne 21 Luke McGrath
Junior Rasolea 22 Ciaran Frawley
Glenn Bryce 23 Adam Byrne

Not Considered
Due to Injury

Tom Daly,
Josh van der Flier,
Caelan Doris,
Jamie Heaslip,
Rhys Ruddock,
Sean O'Brien,
Garry Ringrose,
James Tracy,
Cathal Marsh
Officials Referee: Paul Williams (NZRFU),
Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson (SRU), Lloyd Linton (SRU),
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2018-02-08