Saturday 20 April 2019

Leavy and McGrath get chance to prove fitness for Ulster clash

Dan Leavy. Photo: Sportsfile
Dan Leavy. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Already safely top of Conference B with four rounds to play, Leo Cullen and Leinster head to the Scottish capital in a kind of limbo.

Effectively, their PRO14 campaign is on hold until their next competitive game in the tournament; the semi-final in eight weeks' time on May 17/18.

Next weekend, they host Ulster in the Champions Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium. Most of the players who will start that game have been given the weekend off, although a few of those who start tonight will be involved.

Dan Leavy and Luke McGrath return with a chance to showcase their abilities having missed the Six Nations, Sean Cronin will have a large point to prove having been cast aside by Joe Schmidt during the tournament, and Rhys Ruddock is another who wants to put his best foot forward after an ill-timed injury.

For the rest of the players, there is an onus to impress as the season enters the most important phase.

Read more: Connacht begin four-step plan to book place in play-offs

Still firmly in the play-off hunt and with their home quarter-final against Munster on the horizon, Edinburgh have named a strong squad with a couple of their Scottish internationals back in harness after last Saturday's epic at Twickenham.

Recent results have seen Richard Cockerill's team fall to fifth in Conference B, but they remain firmly in contention for a top-three finish with four games remaining as they chase Benetton, Ulster and Scarlets.

A win tonight would boost their chances as they hope for favours elsewhere.

Amidst fears that Robbie Henshaw will miss next week's Aviva Stadium clash, Joe Tomane returns to the No 12 shirt and if he goes well he could start next week.

Ciaran Frawley plays at full-back for the first time, while Ross Byrne continues at out-half and Ed Byrne gets the nod ahead of a frustrated Jack McGrath.

The result doesn't matter to Cullen's side, but the coach will demand a performance to roll into the most important week of the season with a win.

Last season they saw a fall-off in performance when the play-off spot had been secured and he'll want to guard against that issue this time around given the amount of time left in the campaign. Still, Edinburgh have the greater need and the stronger panel.

Verdict: Edinburgh

EDINBURGH - D Fife; D Graham, J Johnstone, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos (capt); P Schoeman, R Ford, WP Nel; F McKenzie, B Toolis; J Barclay, H Watson, V Mata. Reps: C Fenton, A Dell, S Berghan, C Hunter-Hill, M Bradbury, C Shiel, S Hickey, C Dean.

LEINSTER - C Frawley; F McFadden, N Reid, J Tomane, B Daly; R Byrne, L McGrath; E Byrne, S Cronin, M Bent; J Murphy, M Kearney; R Ruddock (capt), D Leavy, M Deegan. Reps: B Byrne, J McGrath, A Porter, J Dunne, O Dowling, N McCarthy, J O'Brien, C O'Brien.

Ref - B Whitehouse (Wales).

Edinburgh v Leinster, Live, eir Sport, 7.35

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