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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Edinburgh v Munster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Edinburgh v Munster

The Ospreys’ failure to win away to Zebre means that Munster are safely through to the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs, but they are now six points adrift of Glasgow Warriors in the race to secure a home semi-final.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, May 3

EDINBURGH (7th) v MUNSTER (3rd), Meggetland, 5pm (live TG4/BBC ALBA)

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Team News: The Munster team to face Edinburgh in Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 encounter at Meggetland shows 11 changes to the side that started against Toulon last weekend.

After the Ospreys’ defeat to Zebre on Thursday Munster are now guaranteed a RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final place along with Leinster, Glasgow Warriors and Ulster.

But Rob Penney’s men will continue to battle for home advantage in the play-offs with the Edinburgh challenge up first this weekend.

A new-look front row sees James Cronin and John Ryan pack down either side of hooker Duncan Casey. Having featured last weekend against Toulon, Cronin makes his first start for the province since the Benetton Treviso game in March.

The familiar duo of Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan combine in the second row, while Tommy O’Donnell and Paddy Butler return to the back row alongside blindside flanker CJ Stander.

Last time out in the league Butler impressed with a man-of-the-match performance against Connacht, securing the bonus point try at the Sportsground.

After an excellent rehab on a groin injury, JJ Hanrahan suffered no ill-effects from the last 20 minutes of the Heineken Cup semi-final in Marseille and starts alongside Conor Murray in the half-backs.

Denis Hurley and Johne Murphy, both of whom signed new contracts with Munster this week, form the centre partnership. Meanwhile, Simon Zebo switches to full-back with Andrew Conway and Gerhard van den Heever introduced on the wings.

The province take a strong bench to Scotland that includes five of last weekend’s starting team, and Luke O’Dea is named in his first senior squad of the season after overcoming a string of injuries.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons has called for a performance befitting departing captain and scrum half Greig Laidlaw in the club’s last home game of the season.

Laidlaw, who is joining Gloucester in the summer, will lead an unchanged back-line at the Colinton club ground however injuries to Edinburgh’s second and back rows enforce a personnel change to the pack.

A head knock in last weekend’s match against Glasgow means Izak van der Westhuizen joins locks Sean Cox (hamstring) and Ollie Atkins (knee) and back rowers Roddy Grant (ankle) and Hamish Watson (leg) on the sidelines.

As a result, David Denton starts his first match in the second row since earning age-grade international honours, with last weekend’s try scorer Tomas Leonardi taking the vacated openside berth.

EDINBURGH: Jack Cuthbert; Tom Brown, Matt Scott, Andries Strauss, Tim Visser; Carl Bezuidenhout, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, David Denton, Mike Coman, Tomas Leonardi, Cornell du Preez.

Replacements: James Hilterbrand, Wicus Blauuw, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Dimitri Basilaia, Grayson Hart, Piers Francis, Sam Beard.

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo, Gerhard van den Heever, Johne Murphy, Denis Hurley, Andrew Conway; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Duncan Casey, John Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Butler.

Replacements: Damien Varley, David Kilcoyne, Alan Cotter, David Foley, James Coughlan, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Luke O’Dea.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Bob Nevins (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 17/10; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 4/9

Pre-Match Quotes: Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster) – “Now (after Toulon) we’ve got to change the focus, change the mindset and get on to Edinburgh. The season does (still) hinge on this, 100%.

“Unfortunately for us at one stage we were talking along the lines of maybe topping it (the PRO12), or (now) getting a home semi. We need to be playing in these top end games, at the business end of the competitions.

“I don’t know whether we’re in a position to get a home semi and there are minimum requirements around here – that’s a great way to be, but we’re judged on success.

“A few years ago it might have been enough to say we had a decent year, but nowadays if you’re not picking up trophies then it has to be a disappointing year.

“We’ve got away from the gallant loser bit, you want to win because in reality you don’t get many shots at it.

“I know there will be young guys saying they can have another go next year but no matter what age you are it’s hard to get there and you have to be greedy when you are.

“The opportunities don’t come about a lot, it’s tough work to pick them up and it requires you to dig deeper when you do get there.”

Alan Solomons (Edinburgh) – “Munster are historically a very resilient team and I expect them to bounce back from that defeat immediately. They have made it clear since that (Toulon) game that their attention is totally on the PRO12 and that they are determined to come here and secure a win.

“It is our last home game of the season, and it is Greig Laidlaw’s last home match as captain before he leaves so there is a lot to play for from our side in that respect.

“Munster are motivated by the fact that they want to secure the best possible play-off spot.

“We are motivated by the fact that it has been a very tough season and we would like to finish our home campaign on a good note by delivering a good performance, for Greig and for our supporters in this last home match.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 76; Tries: Cornell du Preez 5; Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 136; Tries: Simon Zebo, CJ Stander 4 each


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
Saturday, September 1, 2012 – Edinburgh 18 Munster 23, Murrayfield
Saturday, February 9, 2013 – Munster 30 Edinburgh 3, Musgrave Park
Saturday, September 7, 2013 – Munster 34 Edinburgh 23, Musgrave Park


– Edinburgh’s only win in their last six RaboDirect PRO12 contests was 23-19 against the Dragons at Rodney Parade on April 3

– Alan Solomons’ side did pick up two bonus points in their defeat at Glasgow Warriors last weekend, the first time they have achieved this for almost a decade

– Munster’s qualification for the last-four was confirmed on Thursday night when the Ospreys were beaten by Zebre in Parma

– The Munstermen have won just two of their last five PRO12 matches, and are going for a pair of league victories in Scotland for the first time since the 2010/11 season

– Edinburgh’s only victory in their last eight encounters with Munster in all competitions was 29-23 at Murrayfield in the Heineken Cup on October 12