Munster anxious to push on and up

O’Connell, O’Mahony and Murray add top quality for Munster’s trip to Murrayfield

Edinburgh v Munster 
Murrayfield, Saturday, 7.30pm, Live on TG4

All week it has been the Leinster players prerogative to claim that every Pro12 match is now a knockout event. Munster's Anthony Foley will be thinking much the same thing as his side are third in the table with Leinster and Ospreys in fourth and fifth looking up and Leinster definitely feeling it more desperately.

But Edinburgh have good memories of Munster and eked out a 13-14 win in Limerick on the opening weekend of the season, a time of the year when Munster were questioning their rugby sanity. In the first four matches they won two and lost two before beating Leinster in the fifth.

Grandiose claims

Often teams make grandiose claims with the return of players but with Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray in the starting line-up, Foley can rightfully declare they mean business in Murrayfield.

With six changes to the side that defeated Connacht at Thomond Park two weeks ago, Foley has an all new frontrow with Dave Kilcoyne and BJ Botha either side of Duncan Casey, his first start since January.

In the halfbacks, scrumhalf Conor Murray resumes his partnership with Ian Keatley, while the backline remains the same – Simon Zebo, Keith Earls and Felix Jones.

If nothing else – and that’s unlikely – the return of three key internationals will bring a notable increase of physical presence and that includes Murray.

Edinburgh, who last week earned a home semi-final against Dragons in the European Challenge Cup, have stuck with the side that beat London Irish in the quarter-final. But Alan Solomons side, just like Munster, have a bigger picture in mind.

In the race for a sixth place finish and qualification for next season's European Rugby Champions Cup, the Scottish team are currently sixth, equal on points with Connacht and three points ahead of Scarlets.

A sixth-place finish in the league would see Edinburgh through while a seventh spot precipitates play-off matches.

"Munster come to Murrayfield at full strength, well rested, on the back of a great Six Nations for Ireland and being out of Europe, they only have the Pro12 play-offs on their mind," said the canny Edinburgh coach, Alan Solomons.

There is nothing like talking up the opposition. But on this occasion Solomons is right and this time Munster, seeking a home semi-final in May, really need it.

EDINBURGH: G Tonks; D Fife, P Burleigh, A Strauss, T Visser; T Heathcote, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel, A Bresler, B Toolis, R Grant, H Watson, D Denton. Replacements: S McInally, G Shiels, J Andress, F McKenzie, T Leonardi, N Fowles, S Beard, T Brown.

MUNSTER: F Jones; K Earls, A Smith, D Hurley, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, D Casey, BJ Botha; B Holland, P O'Connell; P O'Mahony, T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Replacements: E Guinazu, J Cronin, S Archer, Donnacha Ryan, D O'Callaghan, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, R O'Mahony. Referee: I Davies (WRU). Verdict: Munster.