Sunday 19 November 2017

O'Connor looks to future at conclusion of season to forget

Matt O’Connor has infused his match-day 23 with some fresh legs – news that won’t be welcomed on the west coast (Sportsfile)
Matt O’Connor has infused his match-day 23 with some fresh legs – news that won’t be welcomed on the west coast (Sportsfile)
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster's campaign ground to a halt in Marseille last month but today they finally get to move on from the wreckage.

With one eye on the World Cup period to come, Matt O'Connor has infused his match-day 23 with some fresh legs - news that won't be welcomed on the west coast.

While the Blues need a win to secure their hold on fifth place, Connacht are heavily invested in their fate as well with Edinburgh nipping at their heels in the race for European rugby next season.

The Scots yesterday extended former Ulster coach Alan Solomons' contract for another year in recognition of their progress this season, but defeat at Murrayfield today would leave a sour taste if it prevents them even getting to the European play-offs.

Hence, they have far more to play for than a Leinster side who may have one eye on the beach but are also likely to be involved en masse in Ireland's game against the Barbarians on Thursday week.

Ian Madigan gets a rare opportunity to impress in the out-half shirt, with Noel Reid and Collie O'Shea handed a chance in the centre and Ireland U-20 wing Cian Kelleher is on the bench.

Richardt Strauss gets a chance to face his brother Andries who lines up in the midfield for an experienced Edinburgh side. He packs down alongside seven other Ireland internationals in a strong pack and O'Connor will be hoping his side can win the battle against a group of forwards they respect.

"Edinburgh are big and physical," Richie Murphy said. "They have strong set-piece, a really nice No 9 in Sam Hidalgo Clyne who has been fantastic for them, one of the finds for them and one of the strongest scrum-halves in the competition. It will be a very physical game, it will be tough, they will be really up for it."

For the Ireland stars, this will be a very different trip to Murrayfield than their glorious last visit to the Scottish capital and one suspects Leinster won't want to go out with a whimper even if there's not much to play for.

"The motivation is to finish strong, to get the win, to play entertaining rugby, to go out there and enjoy it," Mike McCarthy said. "It is important for us to finish in that fifth spot going onto next season to get a better draw for The Champions Cup."

Whether that will be enough against an Edinburgh side who have finished the season strongly remains to be seen.

Leinster have had the players all season, but the performances haven't come. It's hard to see it all coming together today.

Verdict: Edinburgh

EDINBURGH - J Cuthbert; D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser; T Heathcote, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford, J Andress; A Bresler, B Toolis; F McKenzie, H Watson, C du Preez. Reps: N Cochrane, R Sutherland, S Berghan, O Atkins, J Hilterbrand, N Fowles, J Te Rure, T Brown.

LEINSTER - 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 (capt). Reps: A Dundon, M Bent, T Furlong, T Denton, J Conan, L McGrath, J Gopperth, C Kelleher.

Ref - N Owens (Wales)

Edinburgh v Leinster,

Live, BBC Alba, 3.0

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