Leinster are gunning to get back to winning ways in the Magners League tonight and maintain their title defence. They visit an Edinburgh side that has won their last six league matches at Murrayfield since current leaders Munster toppled them there in September.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, April 17
EDINBURGH (4th) v LEINSTER (2nd), Murrayfield, 7.45pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/Setanta Sports 2)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Edinburgh in Friday night’s Magners League encounter at Murrayfield has been named.
Shane Horgan will start on the right wing in a back-line which features his fellow Ireland internationals Girvan Dempsey and Gordon D’Arcy.
With Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll rested, D’Arcy will be partnered in midfield by Fergus McFadden.
In the Leinster pack, Sean O’Brien is introduced to form a back row partnership with Cameron Jowitt and Stephen Keogh, two more new inclusions.
Ireland duo Trevor Hogan and captain Leo Cullen will link up in the second row for Leinster’s second away trip in five days.
UCD and Ireland Under-20 back Ian McKinley, untried at this level, is a notable inclusion on the province’s replacements bench.
Meanwhile, following his man-of-the-match display against Cardiff – Edinburgh’s fifth successive home win – flanker Alan MacDonald retains the number 7 jersey in a largely unchanged side for the visit of league champions Leinster.
Lock Jim Hamilton returns to the side after missing the win over the Cardiff Blues with a shoulder injury, while Ryan Grant is named amongst the replacements after recovering from an eye problem.
Allister Hogg keeps his place at the base of the scrum and the back row forward has already surpassed the 1,000-minute mark this season after being ever-present in Edinburgh’s team.
EDINBURGH: Chris Paterson; John Houston, Ben Cairns, Nick De Luca, Simon Webster; Phil Godman, Mike Blair (capt); Kyle Traynor, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Craig Hamilton, Jim Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Alan MacDonald, Allister Hogg.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Ryan Grant, Scott MacLeod, Matt Mustchin, Greig Laidlaw, David Blair, Andrew Turnbull.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Simon Keogh; Isa Nacewa, Chris Keane; Ronan McCormack, John Fogarty, Stephen Knoop, Leo Cullen (capt), Trevor Hogan, Cameron Jowitt, Sean O’Brien, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements: Brian Blaney, Ollie Le Roux, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Paul O’Donohoe, Ian McKinley, Gary Brown.
Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Assistant Referees: John Steel, Peter Carruthers (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Jim Yuilles (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 4/11; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 2/1
Say What: Sean O’Brien (Leinster) – “There’s a lot of confidence in the squad right now. The Harlequins win has given us a lift and we know that the real hard work starts now.
“There are a few places up for grabs so the message for those of us who weren’t involved last week is that we will have to work hard to get into the team.
“I have enjoyed getting a run of games and being involved in big games, like the Wasps victory at home, gave me a taste of the level that’s required. It’s up to us this weekend to make a mark and take our chances.
“We have come up against tough teams throughout the league and Edinburgh will be formidable opponents on Friday.
“(Mike) Blair is a big threat and he really gets their back-line moving. Their pack is very strong and we will have to match them up front if we are to get anything from the game.
“It’s vital that we keep on picking up points so, in that respect, our thoughts won’t drift beyond this game.
“If we do that then we’ll run the risk of losing track of ourselves. We can’t let other results affect us. We respect Edinburgh as a side who consistently performs well.
“We’ve got to go over to Edinburgh and be positive and strong-minded. If we believe in ourselves and perform to the best of our ability, then we will be in contention and it is vital that we front up from the off.”
Allister Hogg (Edinburgh) – “We owe Leinster one. The away match in the Heineken Cup (12-3) was okay, but in the other games we were poor.
“The key will lie in stopping Leinster getting forward because then they could use a lot of dangerous runners. Getting them on the back foot will give us our best chance.
“I know they are without some of their big names but the whole Leinster squad will be keen to push for a place in the European semi-final and this game gives some of them their chance.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Edinburgh: Chris Paterson 98; Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 150; Tries: Edinburgh: Ben Cairns 3; Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 5
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, May 26, 2006 – Edinburgh 8 Leinster 31, Murrayfield
Friday, September 8, 2006 – Edinburgh 20 Leinster 14, Murrayfield
Friday, February 16, 2007 – Leinster 13 Edinburgh 6, Donnybrook
Saturday, September 22, 2007 – Leinster 23 Edinburgh 8, The RDS
Friday, April 18, 2008 – Edinburgh 15 Leinster 13, Murrayfield
Friday, September 12, 2008 – Leinster 52 Edinburgh 6, The RDS
– Edinburgh have won their last two games in the Magners League, at home to Connacht and the Cardiff Blues. At Murrayfield, the Scottish capital side have won six in-a-row in the Magners League since a Munster victory there (20-15) on September 5
– Leinster’s only defeat in their last six matches in all competitions was a 22-5 reversal at Munster in the Magners League on April 14
– Michael Cheika’s men have not won a game in Scotland in the league since a 31-8 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield on May 26, 2006
– The two teams have met on three occasions already this season – once in the Magners League and twice in the Heineken Cup – with Leinster being victorious each time