Munster and Edinburgh started their Heineken Cup campaigns with contrasting defeats in the opening round, so Sunday’s Pool 1 showdown has a huge amount riding on it as both sides aim to right the wrongs of a week ago.
HEINEKEN CUP POOL 1: Sunday, October 21
MUNSTER (3rd) v EDINBURGH (4th), Thomond Park, 12.45pm (live Sky Sports 2/HD2/RTÉ Radio 1 Extra/highlights TG4)
Team News: There were no real surprises when the Munster team was released for their Heineken Cup round 2 showdown with Edinburgh at Thomond Park on Sunday.
As expected, the fit-again Donncha O’Callaghan returns to partner Paul O’Connell in the second row, while Mick Sherry starts on this occasion ahead of Damien Varley in the only changes up front.
The hamstring injury to Ronan O’Gara means a first Heineken Cup start at number 10 for Ian Keatley with the ever reliable Denis Hurley claiming the full-back berth that Keatley occupied before O’Gara’s departure against Racing Metro.
Two notable inclusions amongst the replacements are the 20-year-old JJ Hanrahan, who is standing by to make his European bow, and the fit-again Felix Jones. Both players featured for Munster ‘A’ in their British & Irish Cup win in Plymouth last weekend.
On Sunday Munster face an Edinburgh side who were trounced at home in their opening game by Saracens, but it would seem very naive to gauge the Scots’ ability on that one performance. And one person who is not is the province’s head coach Rob Penney.
“They did some really good things against Saracens. If you look at that game closely you’d be remiss to disregard their display totally, because they did some really good things,” he said.
“They got, and I know its very un-Edinburgh like, but they got beaten up a few times at some breakdown situations and a couple of times at set piece.
“So undoubtedly they’ll be doing some work in that area. And they’ll come to Thomond Park, hopefully thinking they’re coming in under the radar after that loss.
“But we’re certainly doing as much diligent research as we’d done in any other game to ensure that we’re as prepared as we can be. And I think there’s two sides hurting a bit. There could be fireworks.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh boss Michael Bradley has made a total of five changes to the side that will start proceedings in Limerick.
The one enforced change sees Gregor Hunter replacing Greig Laidlaw at out-half. Captain Laidlaw injured his shoulder during the heavy first round loss to Saracens.
The remaining four changes are tactical switches, split evenly between the backs and forwards divisions.
Greig Tonks and Ben Atiga have recovered from hand and hip injuries respectively to make their Heineken Cup debuts for the Scottish club at full-back and centre.
Tonks has started every available match since joining from Northampton Saints in the summer and with his hand heeled, he returns as Edinburgh’s last line of defence and a key counter-attacking option.
Up front, Bradley has opted for the mobile propping option of Scotland tighthead Geoff Cross, while Fiji captain Netani Talei is selected to start at number 8.
Talei’s inclusion means that Stuart McInally reverts to the openside berth at the expense of Ross Rennie, with David Denton retained on the blindside.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett (capt), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, Sean Dougall, Peter O’Mahony.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Marcus Horan, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Paddy Butler, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Felix Jones.
EDINBURGH: Greig Tonks; Lee Jones; Nick De Luca, Ben Atiga, Tim Visser; Gregor Hunter, Richie Rees; John Yapp, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox (capt), David Denton, Stuart McInally, Netani Talei.
Replacements: Andy Titterrell, Robin Hislop, Willem Nel, Robert McAlpine, Dimitri Basilaia, Chris Leck, Matt Scott, Tom Brown.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Paul Dix (both England)
Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/14; Draw: 33/1; Edinburgh to win: 15/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Sean Dougall (Munster) – “I knew it (the Heineken Cup) was going to be intense and there was a different atmosphere about the place all week in the build up to it. It definitely lived up to its expectations, but then it was pretty gutting to lose like that.
“Running out at Stade de France was brilliant. It’s the biggest stadium I’ve played in and it was incredible with a great atmosphere from all the Munster fans that made it over to it. It was nice to get the try but the fact that we lost really just overshadowed that.
“The game wasn’t probably as quick as I thought it was going to be but that was more to do with the weather, the rain and the pitch limited that.
“At the same time it was very physical and Racing had a very big pack. The whole occasion was something extra and was just that much bigger than the league.
“Edinburgh had a bit of a loss at the weekend against Saracens and I’m sure they’ll be firing on all cylinders to prove a point. But for us it will be nice just to be at home again after being on the road for three weeks.
“So, if I get the chance to be involved it would be great, playing at Thomond Park in the Heineken Cup is what you dream of.
“I’ve heard so much about Thomond Park’s matchday atmosphere on Heineken Cup day. The lads have told me it’s ‘hairs on the back of the neck kind of stuff’, so I’m just hoping I get to experience that this Sunday.”
Michael Bradley (Edinburgh) – “There’s no doubt that this is a massive game for us, but it’s also a big chance for us to get our European Cup campaign moving and challenge the teams in this pool.
“Thomond Park is a fortress, steeped in Heineken Cup history. The fans and the players will be fired up for this, so we’ll need to front up to the physical aspects of the game from the outset.
“If we match Munster physically and are patient and accurate in possession, then we have a chance to impose our game-plan and not be dictated to by their players and a Thomond Park crowd that will be desperate for a home win.”
Current Form – 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
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
Previous European Meetings: 0
Match Facts And Figures –
– Edinburgh’s 45-0 defeat to Saracens was the fifth time the Scots were held scoreless in European action
– The Murrayfield demolition against the English Premiership outfit was also Edinburgh’s worst ever European defeat
– Munster have lost their last two Heineken Cup games and have slipped to three straight defeats in all competitions this season
– The province have only ever lost two home pool games in the Heineken Cup, 32-37 to Cardiff RFC on September 27, 1997 (Musgrave Park) and 13-6 to Leicester Tigers on January 20, 2007
– Edinburgh have never won in Ireland in the Heineken Cup. They drew with Ulster and Leinster on their first two visits, but have lost the five matches since
Heineken Cup Records:
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
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