When Munster line up for kick-off at Murrayfield, they will be acutely aware of what they need to do as they bid, over the next two weeks, to reach the Heineken Cup quarter-finals for the 14th time in 15 years.
HEINEKEN CUP POOL 1: Sunday, January 13
EDINBURGH (4th) v MUNSTER (3rd), Murrayfield, 12.45pm (live Sky Sports 2/HD2/Newstalk/highlights TG4)
Team News: Munster will field a team showing four changes from their last Heineken Cup outing when they tackle Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon.
The one back-line change sees Keith Earls, who was injured for the match away to Saracens, return to the starting line-up in place of Casey Laulala who drops to the bench.
Up front, David Kilcoyne and Tommy O’Donnell also return having missed the trip to Vicarage Road through illness and injury respectively.
O’Donnell is included at the expense of David O’Callaghan, with the Tipperary man operating at openside flanker and Peter O’Mahony switching back to the blindside.
The other change in the pack sees Damien Varley start ahead of Mike Sherry who has recovered from an ankle injury to take his place among the replacements.
The Munstermen have slipped to third in the Pool 1 table, and the two-time champions require a big performance and result in order to keep them in the reckoning for a quarter-final spot.
Eager to bounce back from the Sarries defeat and last Saturday’s league loss at home to Cardiff, lock Donncha O’Callaghan said: “There are times when games can lift your season and be a turning point, and we know that Edinburgh have quality players who probably haven’t been performing as best as they’d like.
“So we know they’ll be gunning for a performance and sometimes when you can play free and the shackles are off and you’re not worried about anything, you can just go and play and put in massive performances.
“There’s a bit of drive for them and knowing Brads (Michael Bradley) so well, I know exactly what he’ll be saying in the dressing room. I know exactly how much he’ll want that win.”
Meanwhile, head coach Michael Bradley has made three changes to his Edinburgh side for the Celtic collision at the home of Scottish rugby.
Wales scrum half Richie Rees returns to the number 9 jersey, resuming his half-back partnership with captain Greig Laidlaw, with Piers Francis dropping to the replacements bench.
Edinburgh’s Heineken Cup top try scorer, Ben Cairns, gets the nod at outside centre to form a dynamic midfield partnership with fellow Scotland cap and former Currie player Matt Scott.
The local link is continued by the reselection of winger Dougie Fife, who also played senior rugby at the Malleny Park club.
The final change sees another homegrown talent, hooker Steven Lawrie, given his first start since he returned from a year-long injury lay-off last month.
EDINBURGH: Greig Tonks; Dougie Fife, Ben Cairns, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw (capt), Richie Rees; Allan Jacobsen, Steven Lawrie, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox, Stuart McInally, Dimitri Basilaia, David Denton.
Replacements: Andy Titterrell, Robin Hislop, Geoff Cross, Netani Talei, Roddy Grant, Piers Francis, Ben Atiga, Sep Visser.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Doug Howlett (capt), Keith Earls, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Wian du Preez, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Paddy Butler, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Casey Laulala.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Cyril Lafon, Stephane Boyer (both France)
Television Match Official: Daniel Gillet (France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 4/1; Draw: 25/1; Munster to win: 1/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Rob Penney (Munster) – “The beauty about this week is that if we win in Edinburgh, we have an opportunity at Thomond Park next week to be masters of our own destiny.
“So, we just deal with trying to get the result and not get caught up in chasing bonus points or anything like that.
“If we’re anything but totally focused and totally well-prepared in terms of the homework and execution of what we’re trying to achieve, we’ll come unstuck.
“I’m really confident that the space and opportunities that the players aren’t taking will be taken at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later.
“A lot of people were telling me about Munster losing a league game before the Heineken Cup and then coming good. We have had a great couple of days, so I think we’re over that little hump (the Cardiff defeat) and looking forward positively.”
Michael Bradley (Edinburgh) – “This is our final home match in this competition and we would like to acknowledge the support that the fans have given us over the last couple of weeks with a big performance.
“We would take a lot of confidence from getting a win against Munster in this match and putting pressure on them in terms of quarter-final qualification.
“They haven’t won away from home in this competition yet and will understand the importance of that to their chances of qualification, which makes them very dangerous.
“Somebody’s going to be disappointed on Sunday after the game and it’s our intention that it will be Munster. A win from this game would be huge.
“Where we’re playing, who we’re playing in front of and how we’ve performed so far this year means that we would love to get a victory in the competition, and would love to get that victory at home. It’s a huge game for us.”
Current Form – Edinburgh – (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 23-18 at home to Munster; Won 21-19 away to the Cardiff Blues; Won 41-10 at home to Zebre; Lost 22-16 away to Leinster; Lost 32-12 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 27-22 at home to Benetton Treviso; (Heineken Cup): Lost 45-0 at home to Saracens; Lost 33-0 away to Munster; (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 29-28 at home to the Scarlets; Lost 45-20 away to Ulster; Won 23-13 at home to the Ospreys; Won 24-23 away to Connacht; (Heineken Cup): Lost 19-9 away to Racing Metro 92; Lost 15-3 at home to Racing Metro 92; (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 23-14 away to Glasgow Warriors; Lost 21-17 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Lost 31-16 at home to Leinster
Munster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 23-18 away to Edinburgh; Won 19-6 at home to Benetton Treviso; Lost 20-19 away to Ulster; Won 33-13 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 30-15 away to the Ospreys; Lost 30-21 away to Leinster; (Heineken Cup): Lost 22-17 away to Racing Metro 92; Won 33-0 at home to Edinburgh; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 29-3 at home to Zebre; Won 24-18 away to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 13-6 at home to the Scarlets; Won 31-3 at home to Glasgow Warriors; (Heineken Cup): Won 15-9 at home to Saracens; Lost 19-13 away to Saracens; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 16-12 away to Connacht; Won 24-10 at home to Ulster; Lost 17-6 at home to the Cardiff Blues
Top Scorers – 2012/13 Heineken Cup: Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 9; Tries: -; Munster – Points: Ronan O’Gara 28; Tries: Sean Dougall 2
Previous European Meetings: 1
Sunday, October 21, 2012 – Pool 1 – Munster 33 Edinburgh 0, Thomond Park
Match Facts And Figures –
– Munster ‘nilled’ Edinburgh in their earlier pool meeting this season and are the only Irish province to do so in the history of this tournament
– Munster have missed just 20 tackles in 320 minutes of rugby. Their completion rate of 93% is the best in the tournament
– Edinburgh, the tournament’s lowest points scorers with 12 next to their name, have a place-kicking success rate of 31% this season
– The Scottish team have lost their last five matches, including last season’s semi-final. This season, they have been ‘nilled’ twice and are yet to hit double figures in a single game
– Munster’s victory over Edinburgh this season was the province’s only ever match against Scottish opponents in this competition
Heineken Cup Records:
2011/12: Reached the semi-finals
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2003/04: Reached the quarter-finals
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool C
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool A
2011/12: Reached the quarter-finals
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
2008/09: Reached the semi-finals
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2000/01: Reached the semi-finals
1998/99: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool D