Connacht will be eager to put together a strong 80-minute display at Murrayfield and banish the bad memories of their last visit to the home of Scottish rugby. They suffered a 62-13 defeat to Edinburgh 14 months ago and tonight’s result will be a good barometer of their progress under Eric Elwood.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, November 26
EDINBURGH (7th) v CONNACHT (10th), Murrayfield, 7.05pm
Team News: Three players who impressed in the recent victory over Samoa – wingers Shane Monahan and Brian Tuohy and flanker Andrew Browne – have been brought into the Connacht team for Friday’s Magners League clash with Edinburgh.
Head coach Eric Elwood has once again blended youth and experience in his selection for Connacht’s round 9 encounter with Edinburgh.
Hooker Dermot Murphy will wins his ninth cap for the province after impressing last weekend against the Ospreys. He will line up next to centurion Brett Wilkinson and former Ireland Under-20 prop Jamie Hagan in the front row.
Miah Nikora retains the number 10 jersey, ahead of Ian Keatley. The 25-year-old New Zealander landed all of Connacht’s 15 points in their narrow loss to the Ospreys.
Galway’s Browne returns to the blindside of the scrum as Bernie Upton drops to the replacements bench and Mike McCarthy and Michael Swift renew their partnership in the second row.
Tuohy and Monahan come in for their first Magners League starts of the season. Both wingers had strong performances in Connacht’s historic win over Samoa and join Eoin Griffin, Keith Matthews and Gavin Duffy in an exciting back-line.
Fionn Carr, who is nursing a leg injury is amongst Connacht’s walking wounded along with Adrian Flavin, David Nolan, Conor O’Loughlin, Niva Ta’auso, Rya Ofisa and Tiernan O’Halloran.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s starting line-up for Friday’s game shows four changes to the side that started the 21-9 victory over Benetton Treviso three weeks ago.
Craig Hamilton comes into the second row in place of Scott MacLeod, while Stuart McInally, who impressed when making his Scotland ‘A’ debut in last Friday’s win over the USA Eagles, will make his first Edinburgh start at number 8.
Behind the scrum, Tim Visser returns to the left wing having withdrawn from the Treviso game after picking up a groin strain during the warm-up. Chris Paterson, meanwhile, has been named at full-back.
Prop Geoff Cross will make his 100th Magners League appearance should he be used off the bench by Edinburgh boss Rob Moffat.
EDINBURGH: Chris Paterson; Jim Thompson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser; David Blair, Greig Laidlaw; Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, David Young, Craig Hamilton, Fraser McKenzie, Netani Talei, Roddy Grant (capt), Stuart McInally.
Replacements: Finlay Gillies, Geoff Cross, Lewis Niven, Steven Turnbull, Scott Newlands, Ross Samson, Alex Grove, Andrew Turnbull.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Shane Monahan, Eoin Griffin, Keith Matthews, Brian Tuohy; Miah Nikora, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Dermot Murphy, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Ronan Loughney, Dylan Rogers, Rob Sweeney, Bernie Upton, Mike McComish, Cillian Willis, Ian Keatley, Troy Nathan.
Referee: David Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Iain Heard, Graeme Marshall (both Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 1/6; Draw: 25/1; Connacht to win: 4/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “Edinburgh are a good side, the style of rugby they play will ask questions. They are very strong at home, they play a wide expansive game and they will test us all over the park.
“It’s always a tough place to go and we made the lads aware of our record there. We did not have a good outing last year, but that is the challenge.
“We went to Glasgow and performed after a previous week’s disappointment, but this is going to be a bigger challenge because Edinburgh are very strong.
“When you are six points up with a couple of minutes to go, you’d like to think you would be able to close it out,” he said.
“We are doing a lot of good work – 90 to 90%, but it’s the final five percent that is the winning or losing of rugby matches.
“We know the three games we lost the points in, but our challenge now is to push on, learn from our mistakes and hope they don’t happen again.
“We are close and we have to acknowledge the good work we are doing, but if we want to get where we want to go, then that 5 to 10% is important to us.”
Rob Moffat (Edinburgh) – “It was a terrific night for us last time against Connacht, winning 62-13 – the players gave us everything we’d asked for.
“We’re well aware that the margin of victory that game was pretty exceptional, but the guys should be looking at the qualities that produced the result and looking to replicate them this weekend.
“If we do that, we’ll give ourselves an excellent chance of winning the game and continuing that good recent run at Murrayfield.
“Just like with the Treviso game, the matchday 23 is a good mix. There’s plenty of experience in there, and also a number of guys who will think they should be playing more often.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to give the coaches something to think about, and the best way for that to happen is by them winning the game.
“It’s a big test for all of us on Friday. I’ve been watching Connacht pretty closely this season, and there’s no doubt they’ve really moved up a gear and added a number of impressive things to their game.
“You only have to look at them beating Samoa to know what we’ll be up against – we’ll need everyone to be switched on, and everyone to contribute.
“If we get that level of intensity and ambition right from the start, I’ve every confidence we can give the fans another positive performance and result.”
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Edinburgh – Points: Chris Paterson 55; Tries: Tim Visser 6; Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 91; Tries: Fionn Carr 4
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, October 26, 2007 – Connacht 14 Edinburgh 14, the Sportsground
Friday, March 21, 2008 – Edinburgh 38 Connacht 8, Murrayfield
Friday, October 24, 2008 – Connacht 14 Edinburgh 27, the Sportsground
Friday, March 27, 2009 – Edinburgh 32 Connacht 5, Murrayfield
Friday, September 11, 2009 – Edinburgh 62 Connacht 13, Murrayfield
Friday, April 2, 2010 – Connacht 22 Edinburgh 21, the Sportsground
– Edinburgh’s only defeat in their last five Magners League matches was a 19-18 loss at Leinster in round 7
– The Scottish side have won three league matches in-a-row at Murrayfield since Munster won there (16-13) on the opening weekend of the current campaign
– Connacht lost by the narrowest of margins at home to the Ospreys last Friday and are now winless in their last five Magners League matches
– The westerners have already won in Scotland this season, having beaten Glasgow Warriors 19-17 at Firhill Stadium in September
– Connacht won 22-21 in Galway the last time the two teams met and are going for successive wins over Edinburgh for the first time ever. But Connacht have not won at Murrayfield since a 16-13 victory there in March 2005