Munster were the Irish province to go furthest in last season’s Heineken Cup, losing out to Clermont Auvergne at the semi-final stage. Can they take a couple of steps closer to European silverware this time around, in Rob Penney’s second year in charge?
HEINEKEN CUP POOL 6: Saturday, October 12
EDINBURGH v MUNSTER, Murrayfield, 1.35pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/Newstalk/highlights TG4)
Team News: The Munster team to face Edinburgh in the first round of the Heineken Cup at Murrayfield on Saturday has been named, with the most notable absentee being captain Peter O’Mahony.
O’Mahony has been integrated back in to training this week following on from the knock he took to the head against Leinster last Saturday.
All return to play protocol has been followed and the Munster skipper has progressed normally in this regard.
However, due to the heavy schedule in the upcoming weeks, including RaboDirect PRO12, Heineken Cup and possible International involvement, a decision to omit him from this weekend’s opening Heineken Cup game against Edinburgh has been made.
In the flanker’s absence, Paul O’Connell will captain the province when they run out at the home of Scottish rugby.
With O’Mahony ruled out, there is one change to the pack that defeated Leinster with Paddy Butler coming into the side to make his first Heineken Cup start, as he joins Niall Ronan and James Coughlan in the back row.
There is one change to the back-line also with Conor Murray making his first start of the season at scrum half, with Duncan Williams named on the replacements bench.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons has made four changes to his starting line-up from last weekend’s loss away to Cardiff, spread equally between the forwards and backs.
Centre Matt Scott will make his first competitive start of the season, having recovered from the ankle injury he sustained in the summer. He came off the bench during the 29-12 defeat in the Welsh capital.
Scott will line out alongside fellow Scotland international Nick De Luca, who missed last weekend’s chance to reinstate their midfield partnership due to a shoulder injury.
Up front Grant Gilchrist comes into the second row in place of the injured Izak van der Westhuizen (shoulder), and newly signed South African Cornell Du Preez makes his first start in the back row in place of Tomas Leonardi.
EDINBURGH: Jack Cuthbert; Douglas Fife, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Harry Leonard, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox, Dimitri Basilaia, Cornell du Preez, David Denton.
Replacements: Aleki Lutui, Lodewicus Blaauw, Geoff Cross, Ollie Atkins, Roddy Grant, Sean Kennedy, Joaquin Dominguez, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Donnacha Ryan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Paddy Butler, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, James Cronin, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Denis Hurley.
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant Referees: David Rose, Roy Maybank (both England)
Television Match Official: Trevor Fisher (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 10/3; Draw: 22/1; Munster to win: 2/9
Pre-Match Quotes: Rob Penney (Munster) – “A lot of our younger players were watching when the teams of 2006 and 2008 were doing the business and they understand what it took to get there and they’re trying to emulate it.
“This team can go on to create its own history. Sometimes expectation and previous performances can become a burden, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not aware of the province’s great tradition.
“We’re making good progress and as a management group we’re happy with the direction we’re going in. We’re going to Edinburgh first up, and you underestimate anybody at your peril in this tournament.
“We lost recently to Treviso in the Rabo, so any team can beat another team on any given day if you don’t quite get the detail right.”
Alan Solomons (Edinburgh) – “It’s Heineken Cup week and it’s a massive game. But we have to keep focused on our process of building this club, which has only just begun, and will continue against one of the premier sides in Europe on Saturday afternoon.
“Munster have won the competition twice, reached the play-offs innumerable times, and are coming here at full strength.
“They are a very good side, and what’s important is that they are a very settled side. That is what we’re aiming for, and that is what takes time.
“We’re probably in the best place we’ve been from a personnel perspective, so it’s incumbent on those taking to the field to carry on our efforts to see continuous improvements from every game.”
Current Form – Edinburgh – (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 34-23 away to Munster; Won 16-13 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 44-10 away to the Ospreys; Lost 22-9 at home to the Scarlets; Lost 29-12 away to the Cardiff Blues
Munster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 34-23 at home to Edinburgh; Won 43-21 away to Zebre; Lost 29-19 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 23-9 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 19-15 at home to Leinster
Previous European Meetings: 2
Sunday, January 13, 2013 – Pool 1 – Edinburgh 17 Munster 26, Murrayfield
Sunday, October 21, 2012 – Pool 1 – Munster 33 Edinburgh 0, Thomond Park
Match Facts And Figures –
– The two sides faced each other for the first time in the Heineken Cup during the pool stages of last season’s tournament with Munster claiming wins home and away
– Edinburgh have won four and drawn two of 14 Heineken Cup fixtures against Irish opposition
– The Scottish outfit have lost their last four games against Irish provinces, including a 22-19 defeat at the hands of Ulster in the semi-final stages of the 2011/12 edition
– Despite playing 130 Heineken Cup matches, Munster’s two meetings with Edinburgh last season were the first time they had faced a side from Scotland in this competition
Heineken Cup Records:
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
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
2012/13: Reached the semi-finals
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