Preview: Leinster v Edinburgh

Date published: February 16 2017

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made eight changes to his starting XV that will host Edinburgh at the RDS Arena on Friday.

With second placed Ospreys hosting first placed Munster on Saturday, this game is a massive opportunity for third placed Leinster as they look to keep the pressure on the two teams above.

With a number of Irish players available to Cullen, they have been drafted in from the start while others only back from injury last weekend against Treviso are given the chance to impress from the start for this game. In total there are 11 internationals in the Leinster XV.

In the back three Zane Kirchner – on the occasion of his 80th Leinster cap – continues at full-back with Dave Kearney again selected on the wing having scored tries 20 and 21 of his Leinster career in his comeback game last week against Treviso. However with Barry Daly coming in on the left wing it means a shift across to the right wing for Kearney.

Noel Reid and Rory O’Loughlin will continue in the centre but it’s a new combination at halfback.

Irish internationals Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery will line up at nine and ten respectively in what will be Carbery’s first start since injuring his ankle in the Round 3 Champions Cup game away to Northampton in December. McGrath will captain the side in Isa Nacewa’s absence.

In the front row, only Peter Dooley retains his starting jersey from last week with James Tracy coming in at hooker having come off the bench for Ireland against Italy last Saturday and Mike Ross starts at tighthead having played nearly 30 minutes off the bench last week in his return from a hamstring injury.

It’s a new look second row with Ross Molony and Mike McCarthy starting.

Finally in the back row Dominic Ryan and Jack Conan have been retained at blindside flanker and number eight, with Josh van der Flier coming in at openside.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s acting head coach, Duncan Hodge, has made five changes to his run-on side.

After a successful stint with Scotland 7s, Glenn Bryce returns to start at full-back in place of Blair Kinghorn, who moves to the bench.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is named in the number nine jersey and will be partnered by Duncan Weir, who returns from Scotland national team duty to take up the fly-half berth.

Neil Cochrane is set to pack down at hooker, while Cornell Du Preez comes into the side to start at number eight.

Hodge said: “We’re back on the road and know Leinster are a tough team to overcome, especially on their home patch.

“As a squad, we’ve learned a lot from last week’s match against Ulster and will look to take the positives from an encouraging second-half display into this week’s game.

“The players showed a lot of character and resolve last week in overcoming the challenges of what was a high-tempo and physical encounter.

“Those involved tomorrow night will need to show a similar tenacity and perform for the full 80 minutes if we’re to challenge the home side.”

Tom Brown – who announced he’s extended his time with the capital club for a further two seasons– continues on the left wing, joining Damien Hoyland and Bryce in the back-three.

Phil Burleigh and Chris Dean continue as the centre partnership outside Weir and Hidalgo-Clyne.

Jack Cosgrove and Murray McCallum start at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively, completing the front-row alongside Cochrane.

Jamie Ritchie – a late call-up into last week’s match-day squad – is named on the openside flank, with Magnus Bradbury moving to the blindside to accommodate for the inclusion of Du Preez in the back-row.

Form: Leinster Rugby are unbeaten in their last five matches since their 17-29 reversal at Munster in the Guinness PRO12 on 26 December. The Leinstermen have won their last 18 home games since their 16-20 defeat by Toulon at Aviva Stadium in December 2015. Edinburgh have slipped to two straight defeats in the Guinness PRO12, both to Irish provinces, Ulster and Munster. Edinburgh have not been victorious in Ireland since a trip to Connacht in January 2015. Leinster have lost just one of their last six encounters with Edinburgh : 9-16 at Meggetland in September 2015, whilst the last time Edinburgh were victorious in Dublin was at Donnybrook in November 2005. 

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Barry Daly, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Luke McGrath (c), 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Andrew Porter, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Adam Byrne

Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Neil Cochrane (c), 1 Jack Cosgrove
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Nick Beavon, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Lewis Carmichael, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Blair Kinghorn

Date: Friday, February 17
Venue: RDS
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Simon Rees (Wales), Leo Colgan (Ireland)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)