Leinster’s turbulent season will come to an end in Murrayfield this afternoon, when Matt O’Connor’s side face Edinburgh in the final round of the Guinness Pro12 (3pm).
A 10-0 triumph over Benetton Treviso at the RDS last week has ensured the Blues will compete in next term’s European Rugby Champions Cup, but this fixture is certainly not a dead rubber for the hosts.
Alan Solomon’s charges lie five points outside of the top-six, and are also one point behind seventh-place Connacht. A play-off option is available to the team that finishes in this position, but even though an Edinburgh defeat may benefit Pat Lam’s men, Leinster lock Mike McCarthy (who had two spells with Connacht before joining Leinster in 2013) is primarily concentrating on the challenge they will face in the Scottish capital.
“I haven’t really thought about it. I just want to go out there and play well against Edinburgh and finish strongly,” McCarthy said. “I know Connacht have got Ospreys at home and anyone playing at the Sportsground is going to have a tough game. Hopefully, they can get the win there.”
Murrayfield has been something of a fortress for Edinburgh this season, and with 10 wins from their last 12 home matches, McCarthy knows that a strong performance will be required from Leinster.
“The motivation is to finish strong, to get the win, to play entertaining rugby, to go out there and enjoy it. It is important for us to finish in that fifth spot going onto next season to get a better draw for The Champions Cup.”
McCarthy again partners Devin Toner in the second-row of a pack that is unchanged from the Treviso game. Richardt Strauss will line out against his brother Andries — who features alongside Sam Beard in the Edinburgh midfield — but it is the defensive set-up of Leinster that will provide the greatest intrigue. The soon-to-be-retired duo of Shane Jennings and Gordon D’Arcy are both absent from the match-day squad.
R Kearney; Z Kirchner, C O’Shea, N Reid, D Kearney; I Madigan, I Boss; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Ross; D Toner, M McCarthy; J Murphy, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
A Dundon, M Bent, T Furlong, T Denton, J Conan, L McGrath, J Gopperth, C Kelleher.
J Cuthbert; D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser; T Heathcote, S Hidlago-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford, J Andress; A Bresler, B Toolis; F McKenzie, H Watson, C Du Preez.
N Cochrane, R Sutherland, S Berghan, O Atkins, J Hilterbrand, N Fowles, J Te Rure, T Brown.
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