Preview: Edinburgh v Connacht

Date published: November 28 2013

Ross Rennie is welcomed back for his first Edinburgh start since March for Friday's Pro12 clash with Connacht at Murrayfield.

Ross Rennie is welcomed back for his first Edinburgh start since March for Friday's Pro12 clash with Connacht at Murrayfield.

The 20-times capped Scotland international has come off the bench in the last two games against Ulster and Zebre, as part of his return to full fitness.

Like many admirers of the foraging, link-playing flanker, head coach Alan Solomons is hopeful that the long-lasting lay-off is now behind him.

“Ross [Rennie] has had a long term injury,” said Solomons.

“We reintroduced him with 15 minutes in his first game against Zebre and a full half against Ulster and I think that a player of his calibre and experience, having had those two games, is ready to start.

“We need to see what he can do as a starter, so it's a great opportunity for Ross to show us what he is capable of.”

Rennie is one of seven Scotland caps named to start the match, with Alasdair Dickinson and David Denton returning from Scotland duty to bolster the pack, while captain Greig Laidlaw and Nick De Luca add firepower to an otherwise unchanged backline.

The club are, however, without the services of hooker Ross Ford and lock Grant Gilchrist, who picked up calf and shoulder injuries respectively in Saturday's Test against Australia.

Edinburgh Rugby have won their last three home matches in succession, losing just once at Murrayfield (against Scarlets) this season in all competitions.

However, the Irishmen's last away success in the competition was their most recent trip to Edinburgh in April, though that remains their only victory in their last six encounters with the Murrayfield men.

“Connacht are always a difficult side,” added Solomons.

“They were very unlucky to lose against Leinster and my experience in my time at Ulster is that they are always a tricky side to play – and funnily enough they are like that home or away.

“They have certainly caused some big upsets in their time and one certainly can't underestimate them.

“It is important to win your home games but I think, for us, it is still about continuous improvement week on week. There is no reason why we should not lok for that from tomorrow night's game.”

Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made six changes to the team that lined out against Scarlets last weekend.

Irish international Robbie Henshaw returns to the mix and starts at full-back against the Scottish side. Henshaw is joined in the back three with Connacht's record try scorer Fionn Carr and last week's try scorer Matt Healy. Former Scottish international Dan Parks has been named at fly-half.

Up front, Ronan Loughney starts at loosehead in place of the injured Brett Wilkinson. Mick Kearney has been handed his first start of the season after coming off the bench in the last two PRO12 games. At 6'5″, the 22-year-old joins skipper Craig Clarke in the second-row.

Eoin McKeon returns to the side after missing three months due to injury. The back rower, who played 80 minutes for club side Buccaneers last weekend, starts at number eight.

Prop Denis Buckley is named on the replacements bench which also includes forward John Muldoon on his return from injury. Scrum-half Frank Murphy, who played his first minutes of senior rugby in over a year last weekend, is also included.

“We know winning at this level comes down to fine margins which has been frustrating for all of us so far this season,” said Lam.

“But we are determined to capitalise on every opportunity we create to give us a chance of a much needed win here.

“We face another challenge away from home tomorrow. This season Edinburgh have proven a strong side who are tough to beat at home. They've won their last three games at Murrayfield, including an excellent Heineken Cup win over Munster.

“Our squad has been boosted by the return of Robbie (Henshaw) and Eoin (McKeon) while John (Muldoon) passed a late fitness test which sees him named on the bench. We need to deliver a performance that gives us every chance of getting the result.”

Form: Edinburgh Rugby have lost only once at Murrayfield in any competition this season: 9-22 to the Scarlets in round 4 of the Pro12. The Scotsmen have won just one of their last six fixtures with Irish provinces in 2013: 14-8 over Ulster at Murrayfield in March. Connacht have slipped to seven straight defeats in the PRO12 since their opening weekend victory at home to Zebre. The Irishmen have not won away from home in the tournament since their most recent trip to Murrayfield to face Edinburgh on 12th April. This remains their only victory in their last six encounters with Scottish opponents. Both of the fixtures between the two sides in last season's PRO12 campaign were won by the away side on the day, whilst Connacht are going for back-to-back victories over Edinburgh for the first time in their history.

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Jack Cuthbert, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Dave Denton, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 WP Nel, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Al Dickinson.
Replacements:16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Roddy Grant, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Tom Brown.

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Aly Muldowney, 5 Craig Clarke (c), 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Sean Henry, 1 Ronan Loughney.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Michael Swift, 20 John Muldoon, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Gavin Duffy.

Date: Friday 29th November
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Neil Paterson, Stephen Ward (both Scotland)