Munster completed a season’s double over Edinburgh last term – beating the Scots 19-16 and 11-7 – and they will be hoping for more of the same at Murrayfield on Friday night as they get the Tony McGahan era officially off the ground.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 5
EDINBURGH v MUNSTER, Murrayfield, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports 2)
Team News: In choosing his team for his first competitive game as Munster coach, Tony McGahan has made a number of changes to the side that secured a 35-14 pre-season friendly win over London Irish in Cork last week.
Rua Tipoki, one of last season’s Heineken Cup-winning heroes, returns to the Munster starting line-up for Friday’s encounter with Edinburgh, rekindling his centre partnership with Lifeimi Mafi.
Tipoki’s inclusion sees Keith Earls, who scored two tries in that victory over Irish, move to the right wing.
Ronan O’Gara, a second half substitute against the Exiles, comes in for Paul Warwick at out-half, while Munster will start their league campaign with an all-Irish international front five.
Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan and team captain Paul O’Connell, who were all on bench duty against Irish, will start the Murrayfield clash.
David Wallace joins the in-form Donnacha Ryan and John O’Sullivan in the back row.
A sore throat has ruled John Hayes out of tonight’s game – the news came through on Friday morning. Tony Buckley is flying over from Cork to join up with the matchday squad and McGahan will pick either Federico Pucciariello or Buckley as Hayes’ direct replacement.
Meanwhile, former Ulster player Matt Mustchin will switch to the back row for Edinburgh as with a bulked-up pack, they look to target Munster at set-piece time.
Craig Hamilton, praised by coach Andy Robinson for his recent form, will join forces with ex-Leinster lock Ben Gissing in the Scottish side’s second row.
In the back-line, Chris Paterson makes his first start for Edinburgh since April 2007 and in doing so he will be making his 150th appearance for the club.
Mike Blair captains the side at scrum half while Scotland ‘A’ international Calum MacRae continues at outside centre in the absence of knee injury victim Ben Cairns.
A lengthy Edinburgh injury list also includes John Houston (pelvis), Jim Hamilton (shoulder), Ross Rennie (knee), Matt Dey (shoulder) and club captain Simon Cross (rib).
But Robinson’s charges are brimming with confidence nonethless, after their recent friendly victories over Wasps and Bath.
EDINBURGH: Hugo Southwell; Chris Paterson, Calum MacRae, Nick De Luca, Simon Webster; Phil Godman, Mike Blair (capt); Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Craig Hamilton, Ben Gissing, Matt Mustchin, Alan MacDonald, Allister Hogg.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Gavin Kerr, Scott Newlands, David Callam, Greig Laidlaw, Mark Robertson, Andrew Turnbull.
MUNSTER: Doug Howlett; Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Rua Tipoki, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, AN Other, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Donnacha Ryan, John O’Sullivan, David Wallace.
Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Federico Pucciariello/Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Justin Melck, Peter Stringer, Peter Warwick, Barry Murphy.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Touch Judges: Rob Dickson, Alan Forrest (both Scotland)
Say What: Paul O’Connell (Munster) – “I think training for us has been brilliant. Every year the provinces seem to take a step up in terms of professionalism, in terms of training and in terms of coaching. And the new ideas this year have been quite exciting as well.
“I don’t mean any disrespect to the coaches we had in the past, but new ideas are nice as well. It;s been an exciting couple of weeks now and I suppose this is when the real work starts.
“I think pre-season has always been very enjoyable because you train hard Monday to Friday.
“Thursday and Friday you don’t get the knot in your stomach that comes with the nerves from a game, so you’re able to relax then at the weekends. Now we’re back to matches and the pressure comes back.
“Change is good as well. We’ve all become a very good team over the last few years. And that’s probably one of Declan Kidney’s strengths – coaching a team, teaching a team how to win and giving it experience to do the right things at the right time.
“Now I suppose Laurie (Fisher), Axel (Anthony Foley), Dutchy (Jason Holland) and Tony (McGahan) want to take it a bit further and start improving individuals as players…their skills and things like that. It has been great in the last few weeks.”
Andy Robinson (Edinburgh) – “It is important on the back of all our pre-season work that we win on Friday.
“A loss this weekend would make the pre-season friendly results pointless. So it’s important that the guys who do have the experience and the talent really deliver.
“We are now facing our biggest test of the year so far because we are facing Munster.
“We didn’t beat them last year and they play a tough brand of rugby. We need to be able to cope with the way they play as well as imposing our gameplan on them.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Edinburgh: Phil Godman 103; Munster: Paul Warwick 130; Tries: Edinburgh: Andrew Turnbull 5; Munster: Paul Warwick, Ian Dowling 3 each.
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, January 7, 2006 – Edinburgh 17 Munster 18, Murrayfield
Saturday, April 15, 2006 – Munster 36 Edinburgh 15, Thomond Park
Friday, October 13, 2006 – Munster 10 Edinburgh 21, Thomond Park
Friday, May 4, 2007 – Edinburgh 9 Munster 35, Murrayfield
Saturday, November 3, 2007 – Munster 19 Edinburgh 16, Musgrave Park
Friday, February 15, 2008 – Edinburgh 7 Munster 11, Murrayfield
– Edinburgh did well to conclude last season with three straight wins following a 23-14 defeat at the hands of Glasgow on April 11
– Munster are the only Irish side to have won at Murrayfield since the 2005/06 season, doing so twice in May
2007 and February 2008
– Munster, the current European champions, have not lost in Scotland since a 24-13 reversal at Glasgow in the
Magners League on September 15, 2006
– Edinburgh’s only win over Munster in their last nine encounters in all competitions was a 21-10 success at Thomond Park on October 13, 2006