Preview: Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues

Date published: December 15 2011

Mike Blair and Greig Laidlaw will steer the Edinburgh back-line against Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup at Murrayfield on Friday.

Mike Blair and Greig Laidlaw will steer the Edinburgh backs against Cardiff Blues in Round 4 of the Heineken Cup at Murrayfield on Friday.

Two wins from three in Pool 2 means Edinburgh are just three points behind this weekend's opponents, who leapfrogged Edinburgh into the Pool's top spot in the reverse fixture last Friday.

Now, with home advantage, the capital club have the chance to redress the Pool positions, with a win capable of restoring Edinburgh to the top spot with two matches remaining – Racing Metro away followed by London Irish at Murrayfield.

The selection of Blair and Laidlaw is the only change in the back-line, while two personnel changes have been made in the pack – Grant Gilchrist and Netani Talei coming in for Esteban Lozada and Stuart McInally at lock and eight.

Talei's introduction means there's no room for McInally in the matchday 23, with Ross Rennie retaining the back-row replacement berth, while Lozada takes Steven Turnbull's place on the bench.

“Everyone's looking forward to this game, the boys are confident and have been focussed on this match since we left Cardiff on Saturday. It's a big, big game for us, Talei told the Edinburgh website.

“Cardiff have the ability to slot points from pretty much anywhere within 50 metres so we can't afford to give away cheap penalties.

“We have to tackle the basics first at the ruck and the tackle area – that's what Cardiff are very good at. If we put our focus there first and give our backs the go forward we're capable of scoring tries from anywhere around the park.”

Other notable inclusions see centre Matt Scott return from a hip injury sustained in the side's 48-47 win over Racing Metro, while the experienced Phil Godman provides the half-back replacement option for Laidlaw and Blair from the bench.

Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues have made one change after having recorded their six successive win over Edinburgh last Friday.

Winger Alex Cuthbert is out with a minor hamstring injury and is replaced by Gavin Evans, with Dafydd Hewitt moving onto the bench.

Twenty points from the boot of Dan Parks and a well taken Cuthbert try secured the win for the Blues, who now sit at the top of Pool 2 with 12 points, having recorded three wins from three so far in the tournament.

The Blues did the double over Edinburgh in last season's competition with an 18-17 home win and a 21-14 victory on the road, but Blues backs coach Gareth Baber is taking nothing for granted this Friday.

“Obviously it's good to try to stick to a side that's winning and keep that momentum going,” said Baber.

“Alex Cuthbert had to withdraw with a niggling hamstring injury picked up against Edinburgh last Friday. He trained on Tuesday and had physio on it, but it's not quite right.

“Last Friday's win was crucial, but we have to back up that performance in Murrayfield on Friday.

“They are all big games in the Heineken Cup as we aim at moving to the knockout stages.

“London Irish picked up a win last weekend against Racing Metro and are still in it, so there's a long way to go and we are not taking anything for granted.”

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 James King, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw (capt), 9 Mike Blair, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 David Denton, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Steven Lawrie, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Jack Gilding, 19 Esteban Lozada, 20 Ross Rennie, 21 Phil Godman, 22 Matt Scott, 23 Tom Brown.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Gavin Evans, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Paul Tito, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tau Filise, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Tyrrell, 17 John Yapp, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Josh Navidi, 20 Maama Molitika, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Dafydd Hewitt.

Date: Friday, December 16
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzere