Connacht were pipped by a point when they hosted Edinburgh back in December, so gaining revenge will be uppermost in the westerners’ minds when the sides renew rivalries at Murrayifled tonight.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, April 12
EDINBURGH (10th) v CONNACHT (9th), Murrayfield, 7.30pm
Team News: Connacht travel to Scotland to take on Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday night and head coach Eric Elwood has named his side.
There is only one change to the starting line-up announced to face Benetton Treviso in the last round and that change comes up front with the return from injury of lock Michael Swift.
Connacht’s most-capped player, who missed out on the previous two games, will join Ireland international Mike McCarthy in the second row.
There is a reshuffle in the back row as Michael Kearney moves to number 6 and John Muldoon, who earns his 195th Connacht cap on Friday, will start at openside flanker.
On the bench, props Rodney Ah You and JP Cooney as well as flanker Mata Fifita are included in the forward replacements.
All three players featured for Connacht Eagles in last Saturday’s challenge game against Russian side Enisei STM and Ah You and Fifita both scored tries.
With the Connacht v Treviso fixture rearranged for Friday, April 26, there are now four games left for the westerners to play in the RaboDirect PRO12, and therefore a maximum of 20 match points to aim for. So, the push for a best ever finish in the league will intensify over the final weeks.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh are bidding complete a hat-trick of RaboDirect PRO12 wins for the first time since 2010.
The arrival of interim coaches Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge has brought back-to-back victories over Ulster and Zebre, with the game against Elwood’s men also offering the chance to complete a second successive home and away double in as many rounds.
Scott has named the same backs division that started the 9-7 win over Zebre in Italy and has made three changes to the pack, of which two are enforced.
Hamish Watson, Geoff Cross and Grant Gilchrist replace Ross Rennie, who sustained a shoulder against Zebre, Willem Nel (family bereavement) and Perry Parker who starts on the replacements bench.??
EDINBURGH: Greig Tonks; Lee Jones?, Matt Scott, Ben Atiga, Tim Visser; Piers Francis?, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Allan Jacobsen?, Ross Ford?, Geoff Cross?, Grant Gilchrist?, Sean Cox?, Stuart McInally?, Hamish Watson?, Netani Talei??.
Replacements: Steve Lawrie?, Robin Hislop, John Yapp?, Perry Parker, Robert McAlpine, Sean Kennedy?, Harry Leonard?, Tom Brown.
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, Brian Murphy, Gavin Duffy (capt); Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Michael Kearney, John Muldoon, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Rodney Ah You, JP Cooney, Andrew Browne, Mata Fifita, Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora, Fetu’u Vainikolo.
Referee: Rhys Thomas (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, tbc (both Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 1/4; Draw: 22/1; Connacht to win: 3/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “There is no substitute for games, so the interruption (with the Treviso game postponed) has not been kind to us. But it is how we bounce back after that two-week break, and that is the challenge for us in this game, particularly away from home.
“Edinburgh is a huge game for us and it is still our intention to better last year’s finish in the league.
“We have Treviso to play away and we’ve two tough games to finish in Ulster and Glasgow who are in the top four. But we still have a hell of a lot to play for in those four games.
“There are a lot of things still in our control. We are still looking for the betterment and that improvement year on year. And that’s very much a target in our sights. It starts this weekend now in Edinburgh.”
Stevie Scott (Edinburgh) – “I’ve always said that that there are a lot of good players at this club so, for us, it’s about getting consistency. That’s the challenge for Friday night.
“We need to back up what we did against Ulster where we saw a good response to this new coaching team, and also from the Zebre match, where we showed a lot of guts to grind out the win.
“We’ve worked hard and played a lot of good rugby in these games, and have been building a lot of spirit in the squad. We now need to take that forward.
“We need to treat our home games as a big advantage to us. We’ve the backing of our home fans, it’s a big pitch and the ground is quick and hard, which suits our players.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 88; Tries: Tim Visser 11; Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 100; Tries: Danie Poolman 5
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, April 2, 2010 – Connacht 22 Edinburgh 21, the Sportsground
Friday, November 26, 2010 – Edinburgh 24 Connacht 19, Murrayfield
Friday, April 1, 2011 – Connacht 27 Edinburgh 23, the Sportsground
Friday, September 16, 2011 – Edinburgh 19 Connacht 14, Murrayfield
Friday, February 24, 2012 – Connacht 26 Edinburgh 13, the Sportsground
Saturday, December 1, 2012 – Connacht 23 Edinburgh 24, the Sportsground
– Edinburgh have won their last two RaboDirect PRO12 matches against Ulster and Zebre, but have not won three in-a-row in the competition since October 2010
– Connacht’s three-match winning run in the PRO12 ended with their 22-0 reversal to Munster in Cork on March 23
– Connacht’s only victory in their last six encounters with Scottish opponents was a 26-13 triumph over Edinburgh in Galway in February 2012
– Edinburgh beat Connacht 24-23 at the Sportsground in round 10, and have not achieved a season’s double over the province since the 2008/09 campaign
– Connacht’s only victory in eight previous visits to Murrayfield was 16-13 in March 2005