Coming off the back of a week-long training camp in Lanzarote, Munster will be keen to hit the ground running when the Magners League resumes on Friday night. Edinburgh make the trip to Musgrave Park, gunning for a season’s double after notching a 12-7 win at Murrayfield in October.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, February 19
MUNSTER (5th) v EDINBURGH (3rd), Musgrave Park, 8pm (live Setanta Sports 1)
Team News: Munster return to competitive action for the first time in over six weeks when they take on Edinburgh in the Magners League.
The Munster matchday squad named by Tony McGahan shows nine changes – two of them positional – from the one selected for the postponed game against Scarlets back on January 10.
Six of those changes are brought about by the non-availability of the Ireland internationals, with the positional changes seeing Paul Warwick switch from full-back to out-half, and Denis Hurley moving to the last line with Ian Dowling coming onto the left wing.
Last time around, South African prop Wian du Preez was in the front row in place of Marcus Horan, but the fit-again Horan takes his place in an otherwise unchanged front row.
Mick O’Driscoll will lead the side with recent RBS 6 Nations debutant Donnacha Ryan alongside him, while the one change in the back row sees James Coughlan come in for David Wallace at number 8 where he lined out in Munster’s last outing against Ulster at Ravenhill.
There is a decidedly youthful look to the Munster bench with Academy duo Mike Sherry and Scott Deasy included along with Development pair, Duncan Williams and Tommy O’Donnell.
Meanwhile, Greig Laidlaw has been chosen to lead the Edinburgh team on Friday, with David Blair making his first start for the Scottish side at out-half since early December when he was named man-of-the-match against the Scarlets.
Scrum half Laidlaw signed a new two-year contract with Edinburgh on Monday and has been rewarded with the captaincy for the trip to Cork to face the defending champions.
Scotland lock Jim Hamilton is available for the match at Musgrave Park, despite featuring for 70 minutes for Scotland against Wales last Saturday.
Edinburgh’s back-three has been reshuffled with Ben Cairns required to occupy the full-back berth. Both Jim Thompson (knee) and Chris Paterson (kidney) are ruled out through injury.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Ian Dowling; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Donnacha Ryan, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Julien Brugnaut, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Duncan Williams, Scott Deasy, Tom Gleeson.
EDINBURGH: Ben Cairns; Mark Robertson, Nick De Luca, John Houston, Tim Visser; David Blair, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Jim Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Roddy Grant, David Callam.
Replacements: Ryan Grant, Allan Jacobsen, Craig Hamilton, Fraser McKenzie, Mike Blair, Rory Hutton, Simon Webster.
Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Keane, Eanna O’Dowd (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Brian Fitzgerald (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/7; Draw: 25/1; Edinburgh to win: 4/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Shaun Payne (Munster) – “Edinburgh travel with a very strong looking side and I think that indicates their intentions.
“It’s such a competitive league now, all the sides have improved over the years but perhaps particularly Edinburgh and Glasgow. Edinburgh are third in the table and I believe they’ll travel with a fair degree of confidence.
“But we’re looking forward to it. It’ll be good to get back playing again.
“We have one of the best surfaces to play on at Musgrave Park and full credit to ground staff there. It should be a cracking game.
“The lads haven’t really played since the Northampton game, but look at what happened last year – we came back from a similar set-up and had three great games in a row without the Six Nations group, which went a long way towards winning the Magners League.
“So, we are hoping this camp (in Lanzarote) this year will give us a similar impetus.
“We’re not in as strong a position this season as we were at the same stage last season in the Magners League, so it makes it even more important.
“There are only those four spots available come the end of May, and obviously it would be a massive advantage to finish in the top two as well and secure a home semi-final.
“Not just for the team but financially as well. These next three games with that in view are vital.”
Rob Moffat (Edinburgh) – “Greig (Laidlaw) is playing consistently well and I think he is a natural leader. At scrum half, he is in a good position to captain the side and with Mike (Blair) on the bench, it means if we make the change then there is a straight swap.
“I think it is right for Jim (Hamilton) to play because he hasn’t played a lot of rugby so far this season. We are delighted he is available and I’m sure he will make an impact.
“Another game under his belt will stand Jim in good stead for Scotland when the Six Nations programme restarts.
“Now with just seven matches remaining before the Magners League play-offs, it is imperative that we get as much as we can from every game and we are looking forward to the challenge of facing Munster.
“We know just how strong Munster are – both home and away – so it will be a thorough test for our players and one we will be prepared for.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Munster – Points: Jeremy Manning 30; Tries: Nick Williams 4; Edinburgh – Points: Chris Paterson 115; Tries: Tim Visser 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Saturday, February 21, 2009 – Munster 28 Edinburgh 14, Musgrave Park
Friday, October 23, 2009 – Edinburgh 12 Munster 7, Murrayfield
– Munster have won five of their last six matches in all competitions, and have been victorious in their last 14 home games since Ulster won at Thomond Park in the Magners League on January 3, 2009
– Edinburgh have won two of their last three encounters, but their only away win in their last six trips was a 17-16 success at the Scarlets in the Magners League on December 4
– Edinburgh’s 12-7 home win over Munster in round 6 ended their five-match losing run against the Munstermen
– The Scottish side’s only previous league double over Munster came during the 2003/04 season