Having lost their grip on the Heineken Cup last weekend, Leinster are doubly determined to annex the Magners League title for the second time in three years. A morale-boosting win over Edinburgh would be the ideal springboard into the inaugural league play-offs.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, May 9
LEINSTER (3rd) v EDINBURGH (6th), the RDS, 6.15pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Edinburgh in Sunday’s Magners League clash at the RDS has been named.
Brian O’Driscoll continues his centre partnership with Gordon D’Arcy in an unchanged Leinster back-line which sees Eoin Reddan link up once again with Australian Shaun Berne at half-back.
In the pack, Dominic Ryan is the only change and the Ireland Under-20 flanker will make his third Leinster appearance in the back row alongside Kevin McLaughlin and Jamie Heaslip.
Leo Cullen captains the side and the fit-again Sean O’Brien has been named on an extended replacements bench, alongside the likes of Malcolm O’Kelly and Girvan Dempsey, which will be reduced closer to kick-off.
Bernard Jackman was not considered for selection due to a knee injury and the Ireland hooker is rated extremely doubtful for Leinster’s Magners League run-in.
With the Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors securing bonus point wins on Friday, they have jumped ahead of Leinster in the league table. Michael Cheika’s men will guarantee a home semi-final for themselves with a two-point return against Edinburgh.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat has made five changes in personnel and one positional switch to the team that lost to Ulster last time out.
Returning to the starting line-up for the first time since Edinburgh’s Heineken Cup trip to Bath in December is Scotland back rower Allister Hogg, while fellow international Kyle Traynor is back at tighthead prop.
Jim Thompson has been restored to the full-back berth and Steven Turnbull starts in the second row. A further change sees Ben Cairns revert to his regular role at outside centre.
Edinburgh need to pull off the result of their season – a bonus point win away to Leinster – if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for the play-offs.
As well as a five-point return in Dublin, the Scots need Cardiff to beat Munster with neither side claiming a bonus point.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Shaun Berne, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Kevin McLaughlin, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements (from): Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, CJ van der Linde, Malcolm O’Kelly, Sean O’Brien, Stephen Keogh, Paul O’Donohoe, Fergus McFadden, Girvan Dempsey.
EDINBURGH: Jim Thompson; Tim Visser, Ben Cairns, Nick De Luca, Mark Robertson; Phil Godman, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Kyle Traynor, Scott MacLeod, Steven Turnbull, Alan MacDonald, Roddy Grant (capt), Allister Hogg.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Jim Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Mike Blair/David Blair, John Houston, Andrew Turnbull.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Dermot Moloney (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/10; Draw: 28/1; Edinburgh to win: 5/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Alan Gaffney (Leinster) – “There’s still a bit to play for even though there was disappointment last weekend and we know that we’ve got to finish the season strongly and there’s a real determination to do so.
“We have had a good season so far in both competitions and to not go on now would be a disappointment.
“We know that we’ve got to keep on improving and that starts this Sunday against a very good Edinburgh side.
“Shane (Jennings) rolled his ankle at the weekend and we’re hopeful that he will progress but otherwise we’re not travelling too badly, even though our pride was dented (in Toulouse).
“To lose someone like Jenno in any game mounts to a significant loss because he’s an integral part of what we’re trying to do.
“Girvan (Dempsey) is extremely good to coach and has been a fantastic servant for Leinster and Irish rugby.
“He’s someone you can place your trust on 100% and I remember we first met in 2000 during my first spell with Leinster.
“In the early days we spoke about (the idea of) ‘never die wondering’ and he has gone on to become one of the best full-backs around and one of the most intelligent rugby brains that I’ve ever encountered. He’s a superb athlete and just an all-round great guy.”
Rob Moffat (Edinburgh) – “We know what we have to do this weekend and the teams who finish in the top four and qualify for the play-offs are those who deserve to on their form over the whole season.
“We know we are capable of getting five points from the game in Dublin and that is not said with any disrespect to Leinster who are among the best teams in Europe and who will be hurting at their Heineken Cup defeat last weekend.
“It’s said from the fact that when we play to the best of our ability we can beat the best teams in Europe – just as we have against Stade Francais, the Ospreys, Bath and Munster this season.
“I’m pleased that Hoggy (Allister Hogg) has recovered from his hip surgery and has got some match fitness back through playing for Watsonians in the last few weeks.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Leinster – Points: Jonathan Sexton 113; Tries: Rob Kearney, Isa Nacewa 3 each; Edinburgh – Points: Chris Paterson 115; Tries: Tim Visser 10
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, April 17, 2009 – Edinburgh 27 Leinster 16, Murrayfield
Saturday, September 26, 2009 – Edinburgh 19 Leinster 21, Murrayfield
– Leinster have already qualified for the Magners League semi-finals. Just one further match point would guarantee that this game will be played at home
– Michael Cheika’s men have slipped to three successive losses in all competitions, but have won their last 14 Magners League matches at the RDS
– Edinburgh’s only chance of securing a Magners League semi-final spot is to beat Leinster with maximum points, and then hope that the Cardiff Blues beat Munster without either team claiming a bonus point
– Edinburgh have lost their last three matches in the Magners League, including a 37-25 defeat to Ulster at Murrayfield last time out
– Leinster beat Edinburgh 32-29 at Murrayfield in round 4, and have never yet managed to achieve a league double over the Scottish side in the same season