Preview: Edinburgh v Munster

Date published: August 31 2012

Centre signings Casey Laulala and James Downey will start in the Munster midfield for their PRO12 opener at Edinburgh on Saturday.

Off-season signings James Downey and Casey Laulala will start in the Munster midfield for their PRO12 opener at Edinburgh on Saturday.

The duo are joined by fellow new player Sean Dougall plus international Donncha O'Callaghan in the starting line-up running out at Murrayfield.

Besides the three newcomers the only uncapped player in the squad is forward Barry O'Mahony while Doug Howlett leads the side for the first time competitively in his new role as captain.

Downey and Laulala form the midfield pairing and after an impressive debut season in which he scored four tries Luke O'Dea is named on the left.

Up front there's a strong spine to the selection, Damien Varley propped by the South African pair Wian du Preez and BJ Botha. O'Callaghan is partnered by the hard working Billy Holland with Dougall joined in the back-row by youth and experience in the shape of Paddy Butler and the ever dependable James Coughlan at number eight.

And there will be no easing into the season for Penney's side as Michael Bradley welcomes back a number of his internationals who were involved in the the triumphant three Test Australasia tour.

Meanwhile, some nine players from the successful Scotland tour of Australasia return to competitive action for Edinburgh.

Starting the match in the backs are captain and fly-half Greig Laidlaw as well as centre Nick De Luca and top try-scoring winger Tim Visser. Ross Ford, and back-row trio Ross Rennie, David Denton and Stuart McInally re-enter the pack, while props Allan Jacobsen and Geoff Cross are primed to enter the fray from the bench.

Head coach Michael Bradley's first selection for the 2012/13 season will also see five competitive debuts made from the outset.

With Tom Brown ruled out with a hamstring strain, new arrival Greig Tonks gets his first start in his preferred position of full-back with fellow new face, Ben Atiga, forming a centre partnership with De Luca for the first time.

Welsh international scrum-half Richie Rees forges a dynamic half-back partnership with Laidlaw, while Lee Jones completes the backs on the wing.

New props John Yapp and Willem Nel flank Scotland captain Ford in a formidable front row, with the pack completed by the familiar pairing of Sean Cox and elite development graduate Grant Gilchrist, who reinstate a partnership that started 15 matches last season.

Rugby Union betting odds

Form: Edinburgh's only round one victory since 2005 came at Cardiff Blues in 2009. The Scotsmen finished off last season's RaboDirect PRO12 season with victory at home to Benetton Treviso. Edinburgh have won their last three games at Murrayfield in all competitions, but have not beaten any Irish province since this equivalent fixture last season – played on 30 September 2011. Munster have begun their new campaign with a win in four of the past five seasons. The Munstermen's only victory away from home in their last four trips was 20-16 at Connacht on 24 March. Munster have lost just one of their last ten encounters with Scottish opponents. In the history of the tournament the two sides have met on 21 previous occasions, with Edinburgh victorious on just five occasions.

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw (c), 9 Richie Rees, 8 Stuart McInally, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 David Denton, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Perry Parker, 20 Dimitri Basilaia, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Gregor Hunter, 23 John Houston.

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett (capt), 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Luke O'Dea, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Peter Butler, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Barry O'Mahony, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Ivan Dineen.

Date: Saturday, September 1
Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Venue: Murrayfield
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Andy Macpherson (Scotland), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
Television match official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)