Munster seek to re-establish fortress feel against Edinburgh
Keith Earls, Cian Bohane, Dave Kilcoyne and Dave O’Callaghan to play part for province
Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne during training: he will make his first start of the season in the frontrow. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
This could be a significant day in Munster’s season. During the week, Conor Murray spoke about this “new club” returning to Thomond Park and re-establishing their fortress feel, after the “let down” of last season, by making their Limerick citadel intimidating for opposing teams again.
And so it starts, here this afternoon with a game which will serve to provide a benchmark.
Edinburgh have won on two of their eight competitive previous visits to Thomond Park, both in the league, although since the first of them 10 seasons ago the Scots have lost in 10 of their last 11 treks to Limerick or Cork.
Necessity being the mother of invention, Keith Earls makes his seasonal re-appearance and Cian Bohane makes his first competitive start for the province in a newly formed midfield partnership.
Dave Kilcoyne will make his first start of the season in the frontrow while the return of Dave O’Callaghan at blindside flanker sees captain Billy Holland shift back to lock while Ian Keatley starts at fullback.
Academy graduate and Ireland Sevens player Alex Wootton is in line for his competitive debut of the bench, where Stephen Archer is included in the match-day squad for the first time this season after recovering from his long-standing neck injury.
Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons has made seven changes, with wing Damien Hoyland, scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, tighthead Kevin Bryce and number eight Cornell Du Preez making their first starts of the season as WP Nel is rested.
Rassie Erasmus admits his indigenous assistant coaches have been particularly helpful with regard to the opposition, although in this instance he can also draw on his experience of having played for the Edinburgh coach and his compatriot. “It’s certainly a very abrasive style, dominating forwards and good enough backs to make you challenge in a lot of areas but most of the teams are but they are an exceptionally physical team.”
Asked as to the key this afternoon, Murray mentioned his team’s accuracy to limit Edinburgh’s capacity to spoil or slow Munster’s ball.
Given their injury toll, Munster look more vulnerable than the odds suggest but they should have enough about them to start making Thomond Park into the fortress of yore.
MUNSTER: Ian Keatley; Darren Sweetnam, Keith Earls, Cian Bohane, Ronan O'Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland Capt.; Dave O'Callaghan, Jack O'Donoghue, CJ Stander. Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Donnacha Ryan, Conor Oliver, Duncan Williams, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton.
EDINBURGH: Glenn Bryce; Damien Hoyland, Michael Allen, Chris Dean, Tom Brown; Duncan Weir, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally (capt) Kevin Bryce, Fraser McKenzie, Ben Toolis, Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, Cornell Du Preez. Replacements _ Neil Cochrane, Jack Cosgrove, Allan Dell, Lewis Carmichael, John Hardie, Sean Kennedy, Blair Kinghorn, Rory Scholes.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
Last three seasons: (2013-14) Munster 34 Edinburgh 23. Edinburgh 12 Munster 55. (2014-15) Munster 13 Edinburgh 14. Edinburgh 3 Munster 34. (2015-16) Edinburgh 14 Munster 16. Munster 27 Edinburgh 19.
Formguide: Munster -Scarlets (A) W 23-13; Cardiff Blues (H) L 23-24; Dragons (A) W 20-16.
Edinburgh - Cardiff Blues (A) L 16-34. Scarlets (H) W 20-9. Leinster (H) L 20-33.
Leading try scorers: Munster - Dave Kilcoyne, Jean Kleyn, James Cronin, Andrew Conway, Ronan O'Mahony, Cian Bohane 1 each.
Edinburgh - Mike Allen, Magnus Bradbury 2 each.
Leading points scorers: Munster- Tyler Bleyendaal 20. Edinburgh - Duncan Weir 26.
Betting (Paddy Powers): 1/6 Munster, 30/1 Draw, 4/1 Edinburgh. Handicap odds (Edinburgh +12pts) 10/11 Munster, 22/1 Draw, 10/11 Edinburgh.
Forecast: Munster to win.