URC: Edinburgh v Munster, Friday, The DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh, 7.35 – Live on TG4 and Premier Sports
The table looks considerably healthier from Munster’s perspective after climbing five places to ninth on foot of last week’s win over Connacht. The potential rewards may not seem as tangible here, but a win would see them close the six-point gap on Edinburgh and confirm that their season has genuine momentum heading into a new European campaign.
By contrast, though, with three of the sides within striking distance below them all favoured to win, defeat could be costly. In short, Munster can ill-afford one of those pre-European distracted defeats which has been a feature in the past.
Graham Rowntree’s selection confirms as much. Three of the five changes come in a more experienced frontrow of Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell and John Ryan, who are all promoted from the bench, while Gavin Coombes starts at number eight and the fit-again Simon Zebo is restored on the wing, with Shane Daly shifting to fullback.
Ryan becomes the 13th Munster player to reach the landmark of 200 appearances, as last week’s less experienced frontrow of Josh Wycherley, Diarmuid Barron and Roman Salanoa drop to the bench. So does Alex Kendellen, while Jack Crowley is again backup to Joey Carbery, with the Young Munster and Academy back three player Patrick Campbell in line for his sixth appearance. Peter O’Mahony captains again, and Tadhg Beirne starts again.
Edinburgh welcome back several experienced internationals for their biggest crowd of season and what will be an emotional tribute to the late, great Doddie Weir. Pierre Schoeman, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Viliame Mata, Blair Kinghorn, Mark Bennett and Duhan van der Merwe are all restored, as is the on-fire Darcy Graham, witness a dozen tries in nine games this season for club and country. In all, Mike Blair makes 12 changes from the side beaten by Benetton in Treviso.
The game is bestowed with the presence of Mathieu Raynal no less, in just his third URC game. Edinburgh are one-point favourites with the bookies, but Munster’s poor away form remains a nagging concern.
Although they hold a 29-8 head-to-head record against Edinburgh and have won on six of their last seven visits there, at three different venues, this is their first visit to the DAM Health Stadium, where Edinburgh have lost only twice in a dozen URC games.
Munster have lost 10 of their last 11 competitive away games, including six in succession in the URC, equalling their poorest run in the competition set in 2006.
EDINBURGH: Wes Goosen; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Blair Kinghorn, Ben Vellacott; Pierre Schoeman, Patrick Harrison, Luan de Bruin, Jamie Hodgson, Grant Gilchrist (co-capt), Jamie Ritchie (co-capt), Luke Crosbie, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: Tom Cruse, Boan Venter, WP Nel, Marshall Sykes, Nick Haining, Charlie Shiel, Jaco van der Walt, James Lang.
MUNSTER: Shane Daly; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Josh Wycherley, Roman Salanoa, Jack O’Donoghue, Alex Kendellen, Paddy Patterson, Jack Crowley, Patrick Campbell.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)
Forecast: Edinburgh to win.