It will be first plays fifth at Musgrave Park on Saturday night as the Magners League swings back into town. Munster, the table-toppers, are fresh off the plane from Spain after spending a week at a training camp in Lanzarote and they will not want to be caught napping by Andy Robinson’s Edinburgh side.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, February 21
MUNSTER (1st) v EDINBURGH (5th), Musgrave Park, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: Garryowen winger Ciaran O’Boyle will make his competitive debut for Munster on Saturday night when Munster take on Edinburgh in the Magners League at Musgrave Park.
O’Boyle, a regular in the Garryowen and Munster ‘A’ sides, will get a chance to impress at Magners League level after some encouraging displays in recent weeks.
Prop Tony Buckley has been named in the Munster team for Saturday’s clash with Edinburgh, with his Ireland colleagues Mick O’Driscoll, Denis Leamy, Alan Quinlan, Keith Earls and Peter Stringer also included.
Buckley has not started for Munster since the game against Connacht at the Sporsground at the end of December – illness ruled him out of consideration for the games against Ulster, the Ospreys, Sale and Montauban.
After his two most recent outings from the bench, Niall Ronan occupies the openside flanker berth with Nick Williams set for just his second start in the number 8 jersey.
There is a distinctly youthful look to the Munster replacements bench with Michael Essex, Billy Holland, Darragh Hurley and Jeremy Manning all set to play a role as the league leaders look to maintain their place at the head of affairs.
Past results against Edinburgh favour Munster who have not lost to the Scots in their last ten meetings but team manager Shaun Payne prefers to pay heed to performances.
“Statistics are all very fine, but you really have to look at the actual results of our most recent meetings,” he said.
“Last time we played Edinburgh here in Cork, we won by three points.
“We scored two very late penalties after Edinburgh had been reduced to 14 and earlier this year there was just a score between us at the end. So we’re under no illusions whatsoever about the task we face.”
Meanwhile, former Royal Signaller Ryan Grant will make his first Magners League start for Edinburgh when the Scottish side take on Munster in Cork on Saturday.
After undergoing groin surgery in January, the 23-year-old Grant returned to competitive action last Friday and scored a try in Dublin during a win for Edinburgh’s reserve team over Leinster’s ‘A’ outfit.
Winger Mark Robertson, who underwent a similar operation at the same time at Grant, comes back into the Edinburgh starting line-up after a month long lay-off and Alan MacDonald (head knock) also returns to the team at openside.
The half-back partnership of scrum half Greig Laidlaw and stand-off David Blair, who scored 11 points during the team’s previous trip to Musgrave Park, continue in a back division containing international trio Ben Cairns, Nick De Luca and Chris Paterson.
Allister Hogg, in his 17th start of the campaign, captains the side in a back row containing club captain Simon Cross and MacDonald.
Edinburgh’s new signing Scott MacLeod has been named amongst the replacements alongside prop Bruce McNeil.
Edinburgh have a number of players unavailable due to injury and Scotland squad duty. Amongst the injured players are Simon Webster (head knock), Geoff Cross (knee) and Calum MacRae (leg), while Matt Mustchin (ankle) and Ross Rennie (knee) are both long term casualties.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Ciaran O’Boyle; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Federico Pucciariello, Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Niall Ronan, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Michael Essex, Darragh Hurley, Billy Holland, Alan Quinlan, Mike Prendergast, Jeremy Manning, Kieran Lewis.
EDINBURGH: Chris Paterson; Andrew Turnbull, Ben Cairns, Nick De Luca, Mark Robertson; David Blair, Greig Laidlaw; Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, Ryan Grant, Craig Hamilton, Ben Gissing, Simon Cross, Alan MacDonald, Allister Hogg (capt).
Replacements: Steve Lawrie, Bruce McNeil, Scott MacLeod, Scott Newlands, Ben Meyer, Jim Thompson, Roland Reid.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Alan Rogan, Paul Haycock (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/8; Draw: 25/1; Edinburgh to win: 5/1
Say What: Tony McGahan (Munster) – “It was always in our plans to do something like this (warm weather training camp). It was something that was discussed in pre-season.
“It not only gave us time as a senior squad together but also provides the opportunity to have an intense period with some of the younger players who are coming through the Munster Rugby system.
“The biggest thing for us was to be able to get some quality training in an environment that is conducive to allowing us to train twice a day.
“And more importantly take the remaining members of the squad away and give them an opportunity to progress and be prepared for upcoming games, beginning with Edinburgh.
“The recent bad weather has affected us, no question about that. There’s been several times when we’ve had to change venues because of frozen ground.
“So this past week gave everyone a bit of a lift to be in sunshine and also get some quality training in to give us proper preparation for the games coming up.”
Ryan Grant (Edinburgh’s new prop) – “I’m really pleased to be given the chance to start for Edinburgh and I want to make the most of the opportunity.
“After experiencing a few injury problems, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity and now I want to take it with both hands and help Edinburgh win.
“Playing against the Heineken Cup winners will be a tough test, but my time in the Army taught me about meeting challenges and overcoming them.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Munster: Paul Warwick 49; Edinburgh: Chris Paterson 69; Tries: Munster: Doug Howlett 5; Edinburgh: Mark Robertson, Nick De Luca, Simon Webster, Mike Blair, Geoff Cross, Ben Cairns, Hugo Southwell 2 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, September 5, 2008 – Edinburgh 15 Munster 20, Murrayfield
– Munster are flying high at the top of the Magners League table and have won their last three matches in all competitions
– In the Magners League, Munster have lost three of their last five encounters and were also defeated the last time they played at Thomond Park – 37-11 at the hands of Ulster on January 3
– Edinburgh’s only loss in their last five games in the Magners League was a 25-20 reversal at Glasgow on January 2
– Edinburgh have lost their last three away games in all competitions since a 27-14 victory at Connacht in the Magners League on October 24
– Munster’s only defeat to Edinburgh in their last ten meetings in all competitions was 21-10 at Thomond Park in the Magners League in October 2006