Edinburgh may be licking their wounds after last weekend’s defeat to Leinster but Stuart McInally insists his side have got what it takes to topple Munster in their own backyard.
If Edinburgh win this Guinness PRO12 clash, they will do what no side has yet done in 2016 – beat Munster at Thomond Park.
Alan Solomons has reintroduced fit-again wing Damien Hoyland to the line-up as well as scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, who is set to make his first appearance of the season.
Kevin Bryce also makes his first start for Edinburgh at tighthead, with Solomons electing to make seven personnel changes in total.
And hooker McInally – who also skippers the side – pointed to the fact that Edinburgh have already proved they can topple Munster away from home in their recent history.
“It will be a really tough game,” said the 26-year-old. “We’ve watched a lot of them this week. They are a force to be reckoned with, especially at Thomond Park.
“I’ve had a lot of tough games there. I didn’t play in the one we won over there at the start of the season a couple of years ago but I was doing the BBC Alba commentary for that and was absolutely buzzing. I know we can do it.
“The review session (after Leinster) was tough and rightly so, we were very poor. There were some pretty stern words said.
“The boys know it wasn’t good enough. We created a hell of a lot, which in seasons gone past we maybe wouldn’t have, but we probably left about three tries out there. We really thought we could have hurt them but our defence was terrible. There has been a big focus on that this week to get it right.”
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has shuffled his pack by making five changes – including the all-new centre partnership of Keith Earls and debutant Cian Bohane.
Ian Keatley gets the full-back jersey while among the forwards, Dave Kilcoyne and Dave O’Callaghan pack down at prop and flanker respectively.
But despite their litany of stars, Erasmus is most excited to see if rising star Darren Sweetnam can continue his superb form on the wing.
“I think although we’re struggling at times a little bit, we’re biting the bullet and getting through tough games, we’re scrapping through and it builds confidence,” said Erasmus.
“With a guy like Darren Sweetnam, suddenly he is really one of the go-to men.
“I came in and saw him – I’m now here 14, 15, 16 weeks – and he was just one of the stand-out guys with that sort of ability,” said Erasmus.
“I think the jury was always out as to why he hadn’t made it, and the answer is that he hadn’t had that long a training age or playing age in rugby union and I guess he’s just catching up now.”
Munster: Keatley, Sweetnam, Earls, Bohane, O’Mahony, Bleyendaal, Murray, Kilcoyne, Scannell, J Ryan, Kleyn, Holland, O’Callaghan, O’Donoghue, Stander
Replacements: Casey, Cronin, Archer, D Ryan, Oliver, Williams, Goggin, Wootton
Edinburgh: G Bryce, Hoyland, Allen, Dean, Brown, Weir, Hidalgo-Clyne, Sutherland, McInally, K Bryce, McKenzie, Toolis, Bradbury, Watson, Du Preez
Replacements: Cochrane, Cosgrove, Dell, Carmichael, Hardie, Kennedy, Kinghorn, Scholes
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 28, Munster won 22, Edinburgh won 6.
At Thomond Park, 3pm. Live on Sky Sports
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 28th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (WRU), Mark Patton (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Wigglesworth (IRFU)
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)
Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray scored a try-double for Munster but it was the Irish province’s pack that came to the fore in this comfortable bonus-point victory over Edinburgh.
Edinburgh centre Chris Dean scored the game’s opening try but Munster responded immediately through Murray – and didn’t look back from there.
Murray completed his double – both tries coming off the back of fierce scrum pushes – and academy product Conor Oliver, pictured, showed neat footwork to notch Munster’s third shortly after the break.
The bonus point was all wrapped up with 25 minutes to go, as Dave O’Callaghan surged over to cap a fine day for the Munstermen before John Hardie grabbed a consolation score.
Edinburgh were always facing a stiff task against a Munster side that had not been beaten in 2016 at Thomond Park thus far.
And they had to weather an early storm as the hosts won a scrum against the head only for fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal to push the three points on offer wide.
After some promising play from both sides were snuffed out by the opposing defences, Edinburgh lock Fraser McKenzie received a yellow card for making contact with Jack O’Donoghue’s head – who was subsequently replaced by Oliver.
However, Munster could not make their man advantage count and were let off the hook when Duncan Weir’s long-range penalty attempt went awry.
Their luck was to run out shortly after as Dean ran in uncontested from halfway in the 23rd minute after the ball squirted out of the side of a ruck, with Weir adding the extras.
There were no signs of panic among the Munster ranks though as their pack took full advantage of an Edinburgh offside and powered over from five metres out – Murray applying the dab down.
Bleyendaal’s conversion made it all square and, after a period of attrition, Munster made their forwards dominance pay again.
Edinburgh failed to secure the ball after another powerful Munster push at the scrum and the opportunistic Murray was the first one to pounce over the try-line. Bleyendaal’s conversion sent the hosts in at the break 14-7 up.
Upon the restart it took just two minutes for Munster to strike again as Bleyendaal, with two players hanging off him, offloaded to flanker Oliver who ghosted past Weir for the score.
After Bleyendaal’s conversion, the game reverted to type as the away side struggled to fend off Munster’s scrum and a series of penalties saw prop Allan Dell yellow carded.
Ultimately nothing came of the move, but by the 57th minute the bonus point was sealed as O’Callaghan charged through after finding space.
Munster continued to look dangerous – through wing Darren Sweetnam in particular – but Edinburgh to their credit refused to give up.
Hardie, on as a replacement, rumbled over with a little more than ten minutes to go and the score would stay at 28-14 after Blair Kinghorn’s conversion.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
23 Sep 2016
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