Young guns Dave Foley, Tommy O’Donnell and Paddy Butler will be out to impress when Munster tackle Edinburgh at Murrayfield, with the province currently one point clear at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 30
EDINBURGH (9th) v MUNSTER (1st), Murrayfield, 7.30pm
Team News: The Munster team for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against Edinburgh shows ten changes to the one that ran out against the Cardiff Blues last weekend.
Two of those changes are positional, Johne Murphy switching to the right wing with Scott Deasy now at full-back and Tommy O’Donnell changing back row flanks to accommodate the inclusion of Niall Ronan at openside.
The only forced change is at number 8 where a neck injury rules James Coughlan out and the 20-year-old Paddy Butler comes in to make his second league start.
Otherwise it is simply a case of head coach Tony McGahan using his resources prudently, with Doug Howlett given a deserved rest after involvement in the pre-season games and four RaboDirect PRO12 matches on the bounce.
The same applies to Billy Holland, although he will travel with the squad as cover while in the other cases it is a question of rotation.
Tom Gleeson, Peter Stringer, Denis Fogarty, John Hayes and Dave Foley all featured off the bench last weekend and this time around they have gained starting spots.
Young second row Foley makes just his second start of the season. His first against the Scarlets at Musgrave Park, saw him deliver an impressive performance particularly in the air, and tomorrow he packs down with one of the league’s great lineout exponents, Mick O’Driscoll, who will be winning his 192nd Munster cap.
It is an experience the 23-year-old Foley is looking forward to. “Micko is obviously a massive influence. Not just for me, for all around him,” he said.
“You can learn a huge amount from him. It is great at this stage of a fella’s career to be paired with him. He really is a huge figure for us.”
When he refers to us, you would to assume he is talking about his fellow 20-somethings. Of Munster’s matchday squad, ten players are 23 or under and they have been led to four consecutive wins by Peter O’Mahony (22), who this time around takes a breather on the bench.
Foley is equally enthusiastic about the Cork Constitution clubman, adding: “Pete is another player who exerts a huge influence. He’s done a great job coming in as captain.
“He’s only a year younger than me and he shows great leadership even to the older guys in the squad. I’ve played with Pete for the last two or three years so I know exactly what he’s about.
“I think he gets it and we get him. He’s a great motivator, a great believer. It is great for us to see a young fella our own age making such massive strides in his career.”
Commenting on Friday’s encounter with the Scottish side, Foley admitted: “Four wins from four is great. But we take each game as it comes. This is a new game and that’s all we’re focused on.
“Listening to Micko, the talk is all about heart and belief because Edinburgh are a strong side and especially strong at home.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh head coach Michael Bradley has made three personnel changes to the side that lost 25-19 away to Aironi last time out.
The inclusion of Matt Scott is the only change in the backs division. He will be making his first start since Edinburgh’s last-minute loss to Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
Scott’s reintroduction to the back-line sees Jim Thompson shuffle outfield to his preferred position of full-back, relegating Tom Brown to the bench.
Up front prop Lewis Niven and lock Grant Gilchrist come in to start in the tight five in place of the benched Shaun Knight and Steven Turnbull, who is replaced in the matchday squad by Esteban Lozada.
The final change to the Scottish club’s panel sees the welcome return of talented out-half Phil Godman who starts on the bench.
EDINBURGH: Jim Thompson; Lee Jones, Matt Scott, James King, Tim Visser; Gregor Hunter, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Kyle Traynor, Steven Lawrie, Lewis Niven, Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox, David Denton, Roddy Grant, Stuart McInally.
Replacements: Alun Walker, Robin Hislop, Shaun Knight, Esteban Lozada, Hamish Watson, Chris Leck, Phil Godman, Tom Brown.
MUNSTER: Scott Deasy; Johne Murphy, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ian Keatley, Peter Stringer; Wian du Preez, Denis Fogarty, John Hayes, Dave Foley, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, Niall Ronan, Paddy Butler.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, John Ryan, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Peter O’Mahony, Duncan Williams, Danny Barnes, Simon Zebo.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Cammy Rudkin, Graeme Marshall (both Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Edinburgh to win: 2/1; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 4/11
Pre-Match Quotes: Tommy O’Donnell (Munster) – “I’m enjoying my rugby at the moment. Coming into this season I knew that with the World Cup. I’d get the chance to get a few games.
“There’s still a lot of quality in the back row so it was a matter of putting in a good pre-season and getting a run at it and seeing where that gets me.
“We’ve enjoyed a good run so far. Four games gone, two to go in this phase, top of the league, it’s exactly where you want to be.
“Obviously the defensive effort last week (in Cardiff) was massive. A few lucky breaks like that forward pass and some good defence. It was just a really determined effort. And of course Ian Keatley’s kicking was just phenomenal.
“(We’ll need) another big effort against Edinburgh. It’s a tough place to go. A tough place to win.
“I haven’t played there but looking back over recent years I think there’s never been less than five points separating us at the end. So I think that says it all about what we’re facing into.”
Michael Bradley (Edinburgh) – “The boys are really looking forward to the match. Munster are a side that are historically strong in the league, they’re the current champions and are off to a great start this season, so it’s a good target for us to aim for.
“Munster are, amongst other things, very competitive at the breakdown. We have to be conscious of their strong kicking game and of the positional pressure points they’ll try to do squeeze.
“We need to be consistent in our delivery, accurate in our play (in attack and defence) and maintain absolute concentration for the full 80 minutes – if we do that, we’ll create opportunities and we’ll score. If we don’t, Munster will punish us.
“When we compete and go forward with quality ball, supporters will see some quality attacking play while, on the Munster side, they will look to keep it tight, put pressure on us and play in the right areas. Contrasting styles will be on display and hopefully the home side will prevail.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Edinburgh – Points: Greig Laidlaw 46; Tries: Tim Visser 2; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 56; Tries: Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Niall Ronan, Simon Zebo, Doug Howlett, Duncan Williams, Tommy O’Donnell 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, September 5, 2008 – Edinburgh 15 Munster 20, Murrayfield
Saturday, February 21, 2009 – Munster 28 Edinburgh 14, Musgrave Park
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
– Edinburgh’s only victory in their last five matches in the RaboDirect PRO12 was a 19-14 success at home to Connacht in round three
– The Scottish side’s only defeat in their last five encounters at Murrayfield was a 38-15 reversal against the Cardiff Blues on September 2
– Defending champions Munster stretched their record breaking winning run to 14 matches with a tight victory over the Blues last Friday
– The Munstermen’s most recent reversal in the league was 19-18 in Treviso last February. Munster have not lost to a team from Scotland since their visit to Edinburgh in October 2009
– Edinburgh have won just one of their last nine clashes with Munster, beating them 12-7 at Murrayfield in October 2009
– Munster are the last Irish side to win at Murrayfield in the competition, doing so on September 10, 2010