Laidlaw farewell spells danger for Reds

Edinburgh have issued a worrying decree — Munster will have to fight for a productive result in Scotland tonight.

Laidlaw farewell spells danger for Reds

The words of warning come as they prepare to settle into the temporary new home of Meggetland, the fan-friendly ground of local club Boroughmuir.

Far distant from the wide open spaces of Murrayfield, Meggetland holds just a tad short of 4,000 supporters. That’s why Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons is confident of a successful send-off for his captain Greig Laidlaw, who moves to Gloucester after this campaign.

“It’s our last home game of the season, and it’s Greig’s last home match as captain before he leaves, so there is a lot to play for from our side in that respect,” he said.

Edinburgh’s dreams of silverware are over though, and Munster have a lot more to play for. Other games may have already played a part in their ultimate fate but Rob Penney’s side, guaranteed a place in the last four, are on a quest to land a home semi-final.

In midweek, Penney was worried Welsh outfit Ospreys could do a number on his side and insisted Munster would have to win both remaining games to survive the cut for a top four place.

Instead, Zebre did that number against Ospreys on Thursday and now the Welsh side are unlikely to qualify.

With that threat gone Munster can concentrate fully on securing that home semi-final over the last two games, tonight against Edinburgh and next week at home to Ulster.

Penney has made 11 changes to the side that started in their unsuccessful Heineken Cup semi-final battle with Toulon in the Stade Velodrome last week.

Youngsters James Cronin, Duncan Casey and John Ryan are being given the opportunity to start in the front row. Experience comes in the form of Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan, who pack down on in front of a back row that features CJ Stander, Paddy Butler and Tommy O’Donnell.

Having successfully come through a spell near the end of the game against Toulon, JJ Hanrahan is chosen alongside Conor Murray at half-back. Simon Zebo switches to full-back and joins up with speedsters Gerhard van den Heever and Andrew Conway on either side of an experienced midfield pairing of Johne Murphy and Denis Hurley, the two celebrating a recent one-year extension of their respective contracts.

In reserve, there is plenty of experience, not least from Damien Varley, Dave Kilcoyne, James Coughlan and Ian Keatley. Luke O’Dea returns from injury to claim a place on the bench.

Munster might be glad to hear that Edinburgh have injury problems and Solomons has been forced to play back-row sensation David Denton in the second row for the first time since age-grade rugby.

Solomons said: “Over the last two weeks we’ve had difficulties in the second row, and now the back row, with injuries.

“However, we are fortunate that we have the necessary cover in the back row.”

But reflecting on today’s contest, Solomons added: “Munster are historically a very resilient team and I expect them to bounce back from that defeat against Toulon immediately.

“They will be motivated by the fact that they want to secure the best possible playoff spot. We are motivated by the fact that it has been a very tough season and we would like to finish our home campaign on a good note by delivering a good performance, for Greig] and for our supporters in this last home match.”

EDINBURGH: J Cuthbert, T Brown, M Scott, A Strauss, T Visser, C Bezuidenhout, G Laidlaw (captain), A Dickinson, R Ford, W Nel, G Gilchrist, D Denton, M Coman, C Du Preez, T Leonardi Replacements: J Hilterbrand, W Blauuw, S Berghan, B Toolis, D Basilaia, G Hart, P Francis, S Beard.

MUNSTER: S Zebo, G van den Heever, J Murphy, D Hurley, A Conway, JJ Hanrahan, C Murray, J Cronin, D Casey, J Ryan, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell (captain), CJ Stander, P Butler, T O’Donnell.

Replacements: D Varley, D Kilcoyne, A Cotter, D Foley, J Coughlan, D Williams, I Keatley, L O’Dea.

More in this section

courtsrugbymunsterlaidlawedinburghplace: scotlandplace: murrayfieldplace: gloucesterplace: stade vélodromeplace: edinburghperson: laidlawperson: alan solomonsperson: greig laidlawperson: greigperson: rob penneyperson: penneyperson: james croninperson: duncan caseyperson: john ryanperson: paul o’connellperson: donncha o’callaghanperson: cj standerperson: paddy butlerperson: tommy o’donnellperson: jj hanrahanperson: conor murrayperson: simon zeboperson: gerhard van den heeverperson: andrew conwayperson: johne murphyperson: denis hurleyperson: damien varleyperson: dave kilcoyneperson: james coughlanperson: ian keatleyperson: luke o’deaperson: solomonsperson: david dentonperson: j cuthbertperson: t brownperson: m scottperson: a straussperson: t visserperson: c bezuidenhoutperson: g laidlawperson: a dickinsonperson: r fordperson: w nelperson: g gilchristperson: d dentonperson: m comanperson: c du preezperson: t leonardiperson: j hilterbrandperson: w blauuwperson: s berghanperson: b toolisperson: d basilaiaperson: g hartperson: p francisperson: s beardperson: s zeboperson: g van den heeverperson: j murphyperson: d hurleyperson: a conwayperson: c murrayperson: j croninperson: d caseyperson: j ryanperson: d o’callaghanperson: p o’connellperson: p butlerperson: t o’donnellperson: d varleyperson: d kilcoyneperson: a cotterperson: d foleyperson: j coughlanperson: d williamsperson: i keatleyperson: l o’deaevent: heineken cuporganisation: redsorganisation: edinburghorganisation: munsterorganisation: meggetlandorganisation: ospreysorganisation: ulsterorganisation: toulon

Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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