Munster’s maiden competitive outing under new head coach Rob Penney sees them visiting Edinburgh, with three of the province’s new signings hoping to impress right from the off.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, September 1
EDINBURGH v MUNSTER, Murrayfield, 8pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC ALBA)
Team News: There are no real surprises in Rob Penney’s first competitive selection as Munster head coach, with the squad to play Edinburgh including three summer signings – Casey Laulala, James Downey and Sean Dougall – and Ireland international duo Donncha O’Callaghan and Mike Sherry.
Besides the three newcomers the only uncapped player in the selected squad is replacement back rower Barry O’Mahony, while Doug Howlett leads the side for the first time competitively in his new role as Munster squad captain.
Downey and Laulala form the centre pairing and after an impressive debut season in which he scored four tries, the promising Luke O’Dea is named on the left wing.
Up front there is a strong spine to the chosen pack, with Ireland international Damien Varley being supported by the South African pair Wian du Preez and BJ Botha in the front row.
O’Callaghan is partnered by the hard-working Billy Holland in the second row, and debutant flanker Sean Dougall gets the nod in a back row of youth and experience completed by Paddy Butler and the ever dependable James Coughlan at number 8.
In a late change to the replacements, veteran prop Marcus Horan has had to withdraw due to a back injury. Horan, who suffered the setback in training in Cork on Thursday, has been replaced by Dave Kilcoyne.
Meanwhile, nine players from Scotland’s successful summer tour of Australasia will return to competitive action for Edinburgh this weekend.
Starting the match in the backs are out-half and captain Greig Laidlaw, centre Nick De Luca and top try-scoring winger, Tim Visser.
Ross Ford and back row trio Ross Rennie, David Denton and Stuart McInally resume in the pack, and props Allan Jacobsen and Geoff Cross are primed to enter the fray from the bench.
Michael Bradley’s first selection for the 2012/13 season will also see five players making their competitive debuts for the Scottish club from the outset.
With Tom Brown ruled out with a hamstring strain, new arrival Greig Tonks gets his first start in his preferred position of full-back, with fellow newcomer Ben Atiga forming a centre partnership with De Luca for the first time.??
Wales international scrum half Richie Rees forges a dynamic half-back partnership with Laidlaw, while Lee Jones completes the backs on the wing.??
New props John Yapp and Willem Nel flank Scotland captain Ford in a formidable front row, with the pack completed by the familiar pairing of Sean Cox and elite development graduate Grant Gilchrist.
EDINBURGH: Greig Tonks; Lee Jones, Nick De Luca, Ben Atiga, Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw (capt), Richie Rees; John Yapp, Ross Ford, Willem Nel; Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox; David Denton, Ross Rennie, Stuart McInally.
Replacements: Andy Titterrell, Allan Jacobsen, Geoff Cross, Perry Parker, Dimitri Basilaia, Chris Leck, Gregor Hunter, John Houston.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett (capt), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Luke O’Dea; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Wian du Preez, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Billy Holland, Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, David Foley, Barry O’Mahony, Peter Stringer, Scott Deasy, Ivan Dineen.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Andy Macpherson, Bob Nevins (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 1/2; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 13/8
Pre-Match Quotes: Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster) – “When you think about it it’s just over three months since that league semi-final (against the Ospreys) and there hasn’t been that big a change in players. Mick O’Driscoll, Fogs (Denis Fogarty), Mafs (Lifeimi Mafi) and Tomas (O’Leary) are the four who are gone since then.
“So we have to be mindful that those of us who were there at the Liberty Stadium are still around and like I said we have to have our heads right or that sort of thing can happen again. And we can’t look beyond ourselves to make sure it doesn’t.
“Those of us who have been around this long need to set an example. Everyone who throws on a jersey has to front up but there has to be leadership and that comes with experience and there’s plenty of that in the squad.
“We’ve been prepared well. There’s no excuses on that score. But there’s been a big clear-out too. I’ve been sharing a dressing room with (John) Hayes, Fla (Jerry Flannery), (Denis) Leamy, Quinny (Alan Quinlan), Wally (David Wallace), Micko all my career, since Under-21.
“Then there was Tomas and Fogs and Mafs there too. When you think about it, that’s some talent. So it’s going to be odd to be there without them. You’re almost looking at the door, expecting them to come in.
“So yes there have been huge changes and I hope people realise that. When I came into the side we were evolving and there were days like we had against the Ospreys. And we learnt and we came good.
“There’s no reason why we can’t do it again. We have the young lads coming through. It won’t happen overnight. But I’ve no doubt it will happen.”
Michael Bradley (Edinburgh) – “We have virtually all of our players available for selection and have completed a strong summer of pre-season training, with the time to perform when it matters now upon us.
“We want to make a statement of intent in the RaboDirect PRO12, as a team and as a club, and want to kick that off with a win at home and give our fans something to shout about.
“We’re aware we have to play very well to beat the 15 players that will take to the pitch for Munster because the tradition and ambition of the club always demands an excellent performance.??
“We expect quite a physical game and a hectic pace although Munster seem to be playing a more expansive game under Rob Penney, so expect both teams to look to put width on the ball.”
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, October 23, 2009 – Edinburgh 12 Munster 7, Murrayfield
Friday, February 19, 2010 – Munster 19 Edinburgh 12, Musgrave Park
Friday, September 10, 2010 – Edinburgh 13 Munster 16, Murrayfield
Friday, February 18, 2011 – Munster 23 Edinburgh 13, Thomond Park
Friday, September 30, 2011 – Edinburgh 29 Munster 14, Murrayfield
Saturday, November 26, 2011 – Munster 34 Edinburgh 17, Thomond Park
– Edinburgh’s only round 1 victory since 2005 came at the Cardiff Blues in 2009. The Scotsmen finished off last season’s RaboDirect PRO12 season with victory at home to Benetton Treviso
– Edinburgh have won their last three games at Murrayfield in all competitions, but have not beaten any Irish province since this equivalent fixture with Munster last season
– Munster have begun their new campaign with a win in four of the past five seasons. The Munstermen’s only victory away from home in their last four trips was 20-16 at Connacht last March
– Munster have lost just one of their last ten encounters with Scottish opponents. In the history of the tournament the two sides have met on 21 previous occasions, with Edinburgh victorious on just five occasions