Munster rugby hope for successful winter

Munster return to a happy hunting ground this afternoon when they will hope to bring this block of Pro12 games to a successful conclusion in Edinburgh before turning their attention to the Champions Cup next weekend.

Munster rugby hope for successful winter

And with a lengthy injury list being offset somewhat by the World Cup being over and three temporary signings coming on board, assistant coach Brian Walsh believes that a successful winter lies in big competition for places.

Today’s clash at Murrayfield is the fourth in a run of 16 successive games to the end of January and Walsh said that the key to making that marathon sequence a success lay in players pushing each other for starting positions.

“I don’t think you can underestimate what competition does for a squad. From my own point of view we have great competition now at nine. Tomas (O’Leary) has brought a different dimension to us, now Conor (Murray) is back this week. We have very strong competition at 10, now Tyler (Bleyendaal) is there as well. Rory Scannell is doing well.

“And in the centre we have a lot more in terms of options than we may have had last year. And similarly the back three are playing very well although we are very sorry to lose Felix (Jones).

“With Lucas (Gonzalez Amorosino) coming in that allowed more competition again. That drives standards and it drives a sharpness in training, it has to be good for the squad as a whole. With it comes headaches, but you also have to be very conscious that given the number of games that we are going to play over the next while all of those guys are going to get plenty of game-time,” said Walsh.

Scrum-half Murray and centre Keith Earls both played in every game of Ireland’s World Cup campaign, and will play their first game of the season for Munster today.

There are eight changes in all, six of which come in the pack – Dave Kilcoyne, Duncan Casey and John Ryan are back in the front row. Lock Donnacha Ryan starts his first game of the season, and Dave O’Callaghan comes back in at blindside.

At the back Murray takes the No 9 jersey, with Earls set to operate at outside centre and Ronan O’Mahony is on the left wing.

Munster have won six of the last seven league ties against Edinburgh — the only loss in that time was a surprise reversal at Thomond Park on Anthony Foley’s first game in charge 14 months ago — and are looking for their fourth successive win over them in Scotland.

Edinburgh won their opening four games but go into this one on the back of away defeats to Zebre and Connacht but they have only conceded five tries in the six games to date — it’s the best defence in the league — and Walsh knows his men will need to produce something special.

EDINBURGH:

B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, W Helu, M Scott, T Brown; G Tonks, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel; A Bresler, A Toolis; M Coman, H Watson, C Du Preez.

Replacements:

N Cochrane, R Sutherland, J Andress, R Grant, N Manu, S Kennedy, A Strauss, D Fife.

MUNSTER:

S Zebo; G van den Heever, K Earls, F Saili, R O’Mahony; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, D Casey, J Ryan; D Ryan, D Foley; D O’Callaghan, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.

Replacements:

N Scannell, J Cronin, M Sagario, R Copeland, J Coghlan, T O’Leary, R Scannell, D Hurley.

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