Quinlan leads Reds raid on Edinburgh
Published 10/09/2010 | 05:00
MUNSTER run out in Edinburgh tonight (7.05) determined to improve their away record -- which coach Tony McGahan acknowledges was "poor" last season.
A bonus-point victory over Aironi in Cork represented an encouraging start to this Magners League campaign -- with an impressive scrummaging effort as a foundation -- but facing an Edinburgh side smarting from defeat in Cardiff, particularly in the dispiriting environs of a near empty Murrayfield, is an altogether sterner challenge.
McGahan has largely stuck to the team that got the job done last weekend with one positional change. Donnacha Ryan switches into the second-row for Billy Holland (who put in an industrious evening's work against Aironi) and Alan Quinlan takes Ryan's place on the blindside flank.
Having Ryan in his natural second-row slot should increase his impact, while Quinlan is just the sort of player to get in Edinburgh's faces and disrupt their momentum.
The front-row of Wian Du Preez, Damien Varley and Tony Buckley gets the chance to back-up last weekend's impressive showing with Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty and John Hayes ready to be introduced in the second-half once again. There is tremendous international experience on the bench should a cavalry operation be required, with Donncha O'Callaghan, Tomas O'Leary and Ronan O'Gara set to taste their first competitive action of the season.
It is a squad equipped to end an away record that has not seen Munster win on the road since they defeated the Scarlets in Llanelli at the start of last season.
"Our form away from home last season was poor, no question about that," said McGahan. "As this competition has evolved it's become harder and harder to win away from home. One of our big things this year is addressing our form on the road. If you want to do really well in this competition you need to."
As well as another strong forward display, McGahan will be looking for more expansion out wide.
There were glimpses against Aironi of what the Munster backline is capable of, with Doug Howlett looking particularly effective, and the direct abrasiveness of centre Sam Tuitupou could be significant this evening, as could the attacking instincts of full-back Felix Jones.
In the corresponding fixture last season, Edinburgh triumphed 12-7, courtesy of four penalties from Chris Paterson and Munster will be aware of the importance of staying on the right side of referee Leighton Hodges, with Paterson leading the home team from full-back.
Howlett will have to keep tabs on winger Tim Visser, the powerful young Dutchman who clocked up 10 tries last season and opened his 2010/11 account with a brace in the defeat to the Blues. Mike Blair is a figurehead at scrum-half, while, up front, Buckley's rising stock faces a stern scrummaging examination from the nuggety Allan Jacobsen.
They also have a couple of newly acquired overseas heavy-hitters in the shape of second-row Esteban Lozada and No 8 Netani Talei. Lozada, the 28-times capped Puma, arrived from Toulon with commendations from the likes of Tana Umaga and Jonny Wilkinson, while Talei is Edinburgh's primary ball-carrier, as he showed to good effect in Cardiff.
Their coach Rob Moffat has called on his men to use the positive parts of last weekend's defeat as a launch-pad for victory this evening.
"We were clearly disappointed to lose against Cardiff, and the overall performance wasn't good enough, but having watched the game a number of times, I'm happier than I was right after after full-time," he said.
"We actually played a lot of good stuff, but we gave ourselves plenty to do by conceding a couple of soft scores. What I want from the players this week is to do themselves justice with a more complete performance, and there's absolutely no doubt we'll need it against a side of the quality of Munster."
With Quinlan starting alongside captain Denis Leamy and openside Niall Ronan, the visitors' back-row has the capacity to put Munster on the front foot, while Mick O'Driscoll will be out to replicate his eye-catching display in the loose against Aironi, while cleaning up some of the early season line-out cobwebs.
And Visser's danger notwithstanding, McGahan's men look to have the greater threat out wide and, although there could well be an element of rustiness among their returning internationals, having four Lions on the bench has to inspire confidence.
First under Andy Robinson and then Moffat, Edinburgh have proved difficult to beat at home and have won four of their last five Murrayfield encounters in all competitions. If Munster win, it will be hard earned, but they look like a team headed in the right direction and they can make another significant step tonight.
EDINBURGH -- C Paterson (capt); M Robertson, B Cairns, A Grove, T Visser; P Godman, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross; E Lozada, S MacLeod; S Newlands, R Rennie, N Talei.
Reps: A Kelly, K Traynor, J Gilding, F McKenzie, S McInally, G Laidlaw, D Blair, J Houston.
MUNSTER -- F Jones; D Howlett, J Murphy, S Tuitupou, I Dowling; P Warwick, P Stringer; W du Preez, D Varley, T Buckley; D Ryan, M O'Driscoll; A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Leamy (capt). Reps: D Fogarty, M Horan, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Mahony, T O'Leary, R O'Gara, D Barnes.
REF -- L Hodges (Wales)
Edinburgh v Munster,
live, TG4, 7.05