Murrayfield hosts the inaugural Celtic Cup Final this afternoon with home side Edinburgh, in a rich vein of form in recent times, taking on Alan Solomon’s league leaders Ulster.
Murrayfield hosts the inaugural Celtic Cup Final this afternoon with home side Edinburgh, in a rich vein of form in recent times, taking on Alan Solomon’s Celtic League leaders Ulster.
And forgetting about what amounts to home advantage for the Scottish team, the form of the Celtic League points to the Irish side who were comfortable winners when the sides met in the league back in October. On that occasion Ulster ran out, or ran over Edinburgh, to win 41-3, in a game that was played at Meadowbank just down the road from today’s venue.
So, the Scots will see this afternoon’s joust as the perfect opportunity to gain revenge for that thumping and there is no question but that the final scoreline will be much closer. Edinburgh, buoyed by the return of their Wold Cup players are a different team to the one that turned out that October night. Their form to date has been impressive and includes, most recently, Heineken Cup wins over champions Toulouse and Neath-Swansea Ospreys. Prior to that there was an away Celtic League win in Wales (v Celtic Warriors) and of course that one point win (26-25) over Connacht in the semi-final to reach this stage.
The switch of Chris Paterson to out-half has paid dividends and his fellow internationals such as Nathan Hines, Alan Jacobsen, Scott Murray and the classy Simon Taylor means that Ulster will be given a stern test in the forward department.
Edinburgh will be quite happy to see Ryan Constable confined to a spectator role. He scored three tries against them last time but is now ruled out through injury. Shane Stewart is brought in to add meat to the mid-field, Warren Brosnihan deputises for the injured Tony McWhirter and there is no place in the starting 22 for international Gary Longwell.
The organisers are expecting a crowd in the region of 15,000 to turn up. Over 3,000 will be roaring on Ulster and as they have done in the past, and not just in this city, they can help carry Andy Ward’s warriors over the finish line – and just in front.
Edinburgh: D Lee; S Webster, M Di Rollo, B Laney, C Joiner; C Paterson, M Blair; A Jacobsen, D Hall, R Mathieson, N Hines, S Murray, T Blackadder (capt), S Taylor, S Cross.
Replacements: A Kelly, C Smith, A Kellock, A Hogg, G Burns, A Dickson, H Southwell.
Ulster: P Wallace; J Topping, S Stewart, P Steinmetz, T Howe; D Humphreys, N Doak; R Kempson, M Sexton, S Best, R Frost, M Mustchin, A Ward (capt), R Wilson, N Best.
Replacements: P Shields, R Moore, M McCullough, W Brosnihan, K Campbell, A Larkin, B Cunningham.
Referee: N Williams (Wales).