Leo Cullen resumes as Leinster’s captain as they look to put last weekend’s disappointment against Northampton Saints behind them by accounting for Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, December 20
EDINBURGH (8th) v LEINSTER (2nd), Murrayfield, 7.35pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC ALBA)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Edinburgh in Friday evening’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at Murrayfield has been named.
Head coach Matt O’Connor has made a number of changes to the starting line-up from last weekend’s Heineken Cup defeat to Northampton Saints.
Isaac Boss is included for the first time in several weeks having recovered from a hamstring injury and he partners Ian Madigan at the half-back.
Luke Fitzgerald and Brian O’Driscoll are also retained from last week’s starting back-line, with Zane Kirchner promoted from the replacements bench.
Noel Reid and Darragh Fanning also come into the side, Fanning after playing for the Leinster ‘A’ team in their fine win over Cross Keys last weekend.
There is a completely new pack selected for the trip to Scotland, with Leo Cullen captaining the side from the second row.
Shane Jennings, who was a late replacement for Sean O’Brien in the Northampton fixture, has retained his place and he is joined in the back row by Kevin McLaughlin and number 8 Jordi Murphy.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh welcome a trio of Scotland internationals back into the fold for the visit of second-placed Leinster.
Captain Greig Laidlaw, centre Nick De Luca and newly re-signed number 8 David Denton – who all missed the Heineken Cup away win over Gloucester – will start the match, while several of last Sunday’s successful exponents have retained their starting places.
Greig Tonks, a late positional change against Gloucester, retains his place at out-half. Jack Cuthbert, Tom Brown and Dougie Fife are reinstated as the back-three, while try scorer Ben Atiga partners to the returning De Luca in midfield.
Similarly, man-of-the-match Roddy Grant retains the openside berth alongside Denton and the increasingly ever-present blindside, Cornell du Preez.
The pack changes are completed by lock Ollie Atkins and prop Alasdair Dickinson, who come off the bench in place of injured lock Izak van der Westhuizen (groin strain) and Wicus Blaauw, who features among the replacements.
Another notable inclusion is the selection of former Hawke’s Bay captain and number 8 Mike Coman and on-loan out-half Tony Fenner, who could make their club debuts if called upon from the bench.
EDINBURGH: Jack Cuthbert; Dougie Fife, Nick De Luca, Ben Atiga, Tom Brown; Greig Tonks, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Ollie Atkins, Cornell du Preez, Roddy Grant, David Denton.
Replacements: Aleki Lutui, Wicus Blaauw, Geoff Cross, Sean Cox, Mike Coman, Grayson Hart, Tony Fenner, Sam Beard.
LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Darragh Fanning, Brian O’Driscoll, Noel Reid, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon, Martin Moore, Leo Cullen (capt), Tom Denton, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jordi Murphy.
Replacements: James Tracy, Jack O’Connell, Tadhg Furlong, Quinn Roux, Dominic Ryan, John Cooney, Jimmy Gopperth, Brendan Macken.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Andrew McMenemy, tbc (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 7/5; Draw: 18/1; Leinster to win: 4/7
Pre-Match Quotes: Shane Jennings (Leinster) – “Players have to take a lot of responsibility for this. It’s no good coaches telling you, players know what we did wrong and we have to sort it out. If we play like we did last weekend, we’re going to get turned over.
“It was a tough 48 hours for everyone involved (after the loss to Northampton Saints) and Matt (O’Connor) was pretty frank about what we did wrong.
“We’re realistic about the whole situation. It’s massively disappointing, we’re at home in a European game and they’re the games you really go after and try to put yourself in a really good position.
“Obviously, we took a lot of confidence from the week before, we did a lot of things well. It’s obvious, but the flip side of that is the disappointment when you don’t reproduce that performance against the same team.
“However, now we have to focus on what will be a tough game in Edinburgh. They’re a good team. Everyone thinks they’re a bogey team, but they have talent. Nobody gives them the credit they deserve.
“They can play very, very well and put width into their game and they have a back row that can carry well out wide.
“It’s a big Christmas period. They are big games for us and there are going to be a lot of players coming in and out, so we’ve got to show that we’ve a good squad and the ability to go over to these places and perform.”
Alan Solomons (Edinburgh) – “Rotation is always very important and, with so many big games in such a short space of time, it becomes absolutely vital.
“We have begun to use the squad more effectively and are now able to bring fresh players back in for this game, which I think is a positive for the team. These players are freshened up and are really keen to play.
“They obviously would have loved to have been part of last Sunday’s win (over Gloucester), but now they have a fantastic opportunity to contribute in a big game for us.
“We appreciate that Leinster are one of, if not the top side in Europe, so it presents a massive challenge to which we are really looking forward.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 45; Tries: Cornell du Preez, WP Nel 3 each; Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 66; Tries: David Kearney, Noel Reid, Jack McGrath 2 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, September 24, 2010 – Edinburgh 32 Leinster 24, Murrayfield
Saturday, October 30, 2010 – Leinster 19 Edinburgh 18, the RDS
Friday, October 28, 2011 – Edinburgh 28 Leinster 36, Murrayfield
Friday, April 13, 2012 – Leinster 54 Edinburgh 13, the RDS
Saturday, September 22, 2012 – Leinster 22 Edinburgh 16, the RDS
Friday, January 4, 2013 – Edinburgh 16 Leinster 31, Murrayfield
– Edinburgh have won four of their last six games in all competitions, while at home in the RaboDirect PRO12 they have been defeated only once since April: 22-9 to the Scarlets in round 4
– The Scotsmen’s only defeat to an Irish province at Murrayfield in their last four such matches was 32-24 to Connacht on April 12
– Leinster’s 18-9 Heineken Cup loss to Northampton Saints last Saturday at the Aviva Stadium ended a seven-match winning run in all competitions
– Away from home the Leinstermen have won their last four encounters since their 19-15 reversal to Munster at Thomond Park in the PRO12 on October 5
– Leinster have already been defeated in Scotland this season going down 12-6 to Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium on September 20
– Leinster have won their last five fixtures with Edinburgh, while the Scotsmen’s only win in their last eight contests with the province since 2009 was 32-24 at Murrayfield in September 2010