Preview: Edinburgh v Toulouse

Date published: April 6 2012

Edinburgh will be aiming to become the first Scottish team to qualify for the Heineken Cup semi-finals when they host Toulouse.

Edinburgh will be aiming to become the first Scottish team to qualify for the Heineken Cup semi-finals when they host Toulouse at a packed Murrayfield on Saturday.

Over the years it's been a very rare occurrence for the visiting team to claim victory in European knock-out games. In fact, the 60 Heineken Cup quarter-finals to date have ended with the home team winning 46 times – that's a 77 per cent success rate.

So it's rather unusual for the travelling team to start as favourites, but with four European titles under their belts, the French champions are the natural choice for the bookies to set up a semi-final against either Munster or Ulster in Dublin.

Indeed, these teams have played each other 11 times before and Edinburgh have won just once.

This will be the fifth time Toulouse have been asked to qualify for the semi-finals away from home – and their last eight record on the road is won two, lost two, although both those wins came over French opposition (Dax in 1997 and Biarritz Olympique in San Sebastian last season.)

By contrast, Edinburgh will be playing in just their second quarter-final and the first on Scottish soil.

While the hosts will be proud to have become the first Scottish side to top their European pool, their form in the Pro12 has been less then brilliant as they sit in 11th place. Toulouse meanwhile are riding high in the Top 14, four points clear at the top of the standings.

Both clubs are coming off the back of domestic victories, Edinburgh beating the Scarlets and Toulouse accounting for Stade Français.

Head coach Michael Bradley has named a largely unchanged team. The side sees one change from last weekend's 26-23 win over Scarlets, with Netani Talei returning to replace Stuart McInally at number eight.

The talismanic Fijian, rested as a precaution for last weekend's win, scored three tries and collected three man of the match awards from the six pool rounds, with his barnstorming ball-carrying an integral part of the side's attacking approach.

“The ability of both teams to play an open and free running brand of rugby is a very exciting prospect for fans,” said Bradley.

“Toulouse will travel with a strong, powerful and competent team, one that will be confident that they can win at Murrayfield. It is a contest that will demand a complete performance from Edinburgh” added Bradley.

“However, we can rival the top sides in Europe when we play at our best, as we've shown already in this competition.

“We have genuine and justifiable belief that we can progress from this match but it's a massive challenge and one which the club, the supporters and the city are relishing.”

In the absence of a specialist full-back (Maxime Medard and Clement Poitrenaud are injured), Toulouse have been forced to name veteran centre Yannick Jauzion in the number 15 jersey.

The visitors will also be without former All Black pivot Luke McAlister, who has failed to recover from the calf injury that ruled him out of last week's clash in Paris. Lionel Beauxis starts at fly-half outside former Wallaby Luke Burgess, who is back from injury.

Players to watch:

For Edinburgh: The 'flying Dutchman' Tim Visser has become a fan favourite in the Scottish capital. The prolific wing, who qualifies for Scotland in June, has scored 16 tries in all competitions this season making him the Heineken Cup's top hitman. It's no wonder the Murrayfield announcer usually introduces him as “the man who can't stop scoring.” But 'Vis' has touched down only twice in his last six games. If ever there was a time to show off his talent, this is it.

For Toulouse: With retirement on the horizon, French international hooker William Servat has made no secret of his motivation to end his playing career with more silverware. The future Toulouse forwards coach has been the kingpin of their scrum for years and with the visitors looking to dominate in the set-pieces, his role will be more important than ever.

Head-to-head: Two of the standout players of the recent Six Nations face off as Ross Rennie battles tackling machine Thierry Dusautoir. The French skipper has set the benchmark for back-row play over the last year or two while Rennie is one of the most promising prospects in Europe.

Prediction: You can't argue with Toulouse's pedigree nor their knack for coming up with the goods in big games. Toulouse by seven points.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

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

Toulouse: 15 Yannick Jauzion, 14 Timoci Matanavou, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yann David , 11 Yves Donguy, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Louis Picamoles , 7 Thierry Dusautoir (capt), 6 Jean Bouilhou, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Census Johnston, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Daan Human, 18 Yohan Montes, 19 Grégory Lamboley, 20 Jean-Marc Doussain, 21 Clément Poitrenaud, 22 Yannick Nyanga, 23 Gillian Galan,

Date: Saturday, April 7
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 15.00 BST (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens