Two teams that have struggled for consistency in this season’s RaboDirect PRO12 meet at Murrayfield tonight with Connacht looking for a repeat of their 32-24 away win over Edinburgh from last April.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, November 29
EDINBURGH (9th) v CONNACHT (12th), Murrayfield, 7.45pm (live updates on Connacht Twitter page)
Team News: The Connacht team to face Edinburgh in Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at Murrayfield has been named.
Head coach Pat Lam has made six changes to the Connacht team that lined out against the Scarlets in Galway last weekend.
Ireland international Robbie Henshaw, fresh from his involvement in the GUINNESS Series, returns to the mix and starts at full-back against the Scottish side.
Henshaw is joined in the back-three by Connacht’s record try scorer Fionn Carr and Matt Healy, who touched down against the Scarlets. Former Scotland international Dan Parks has been named at out-half.
Up front, Ronan Loughney starts at loosehead prop in place of the injured Brett Wilkinson. Michael Kearney has been handed his first start of the season after coming off the bench in the last two PRO12 games. At 6ft 5in, the 22-year-old joins captain Craig Clarke in the second row.
Eoin McKeon returns to the side after missing three months due to injury. The back rower, who played 80 minutes for club side Buccaneers last weekend, starts at number 8.
Prop Denis Buckley is named on a replacements bench which also includes forward John Muldoon on his return from injury. Scrum half Frank Murphy, who played his first minutes of senior rugby in over a year last weekend, is also included.
Meanwhile, influential flanker Ross Rennie returns to the Edinburgh starting line-up for their round 9 date with Connacht.
The 20-times cappped Scotland international has come off the bench in the last two games against Ulster and Zebre, as part of his return to full fitness. Friday’s outing marks his first start since March.
Rennie is one of seven Scotland caps named to start the match, with Alasdair Dickinson (prop) and David Denton (number 8) returning from Scotland duty to bolster the pack.
Team captain Greig Laidlaw (scrum half) and Nick De Luca (centre) add firepower to an otherwise unchanged back-line.
The Scottish club are, however, without the services of hooker Ross Ford and lock Grant Gilchrist, who picked up calf and shoulder injuries respectively in last Saturday’s Test match against Australia.
EDINBURGH: Greig Tonks; Dougie Fife, Nick De Luca, Ben Atiga, Jack Cuthbert; Harry Leonard, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Alasdair Dickinson, Aleki Lutui, WP Nel, Ollie Atkins, Izak van der Westhuizen, Cornell du Preez, Ross Rennie, David Denton.
Replacements: James Hilterbrand, Wicus Blaauw, Geoff Cross, Sean Cox, Roddy Grant, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Sam Beard, Tom Brown.
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Fionn Carr, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Matt Healy; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Ronan Loughney, Sean Henry, Nathan White, Michael Kearney, Craig Clarke (capt), Aly Muldowney, Jake Heenan, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Michael Swift, John Muldoon, Frank Murphy, Craig Ronaldson, Gavin Duffy.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Neil Paterson, Stephen Ward (both Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 3/10; Draw: 22/1; Connacht to win: 5/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Pat Lam (Connacht) – “We know winning at this level comes down to fine margins which has been frustrating for all of us so far this season. But we are determined to capitalise on every opportunity we create to give us a chance of a much-needed win here.
“We face another challenge away from home tomorrow. This season Edinburgh have proven a strong side who are tough to beat at home.
“They’ve won their last three games at Murrayfield, including an excellent Heineken Cup win over Munster.
“Our squad has been boosted by the return of Robbie (Henshaw) and Eoin (McKeon) while John (Muldoon) passed a late fitness test which sees him named on the bench. We need to deliver a performance that gives us every chance of getting the result.”
Alan Solomons (Edinburgh) – “Connacht are always a difficult side. They were very unlucky to lose against Leinster and my experience in my time at Ulster is that they are always a tricky side to play – and funnily enough they are like that home or away.
“They have certainly caused some big upsets in their time and one certainly can’t underestimate them.
“It is important to win your home games but I think, for us, it is still about continuous improvement week on week. There is no reason why we should not lok for that from Friday night’s game.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Edinburgh – Points: Harry Leonard 42; Tries: TIm Visser, Greig Tonks, WP Nel, Cornell du Preez 2 each; Connacht – Points: Dan Parks 43; Tries: Matt Healy 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, April 12, 2013 – Edinburgh 24 Connacht 32, Murrayfield
– Edinburgh have lost only once at Murrayfield in any competition this season: 22-9 to the Scarlets in round 4 of the RaboDirect PRO12
– The Scotsmen have won just one of their last six fixtures with Irish provinces in 2013: 14-8 against Ulster at Murrayfield in March
– Connacht have slipped to seven straight defeats in the PRO12 since their opening weekend victory at home to Zebre
– The westerners have not won away from home in the league since their most recent trip to Murrayfield to face Edinburgh on April 12. This remains their only victory in their last six encounters with Scottish opponents
– Both of the fixtures between the two sides in last season’s PRO12 campaign were won by the away side on the day
– Connacht are going for back-to-back victories over Edinburgh for the first time in their history