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Edinburgh Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Pro14, Round 18
Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Friday, 22nd March 2019, 19:35

TV: Live on Eir Sports

In stark contrast to last season, Leinster's Irish have trudged back to their province this week on the back of a desperately disappointing Six Nations campaign.

After a bad start against England, Ireland seemed to have re-discovered something close to form against France, but really it was a case of the French being awful rather than Ireland being that good. Against Wales, they were utterly hopeless, beaten up and out-smarted on and off the pitch. Joe Schmidt is finally facing some justifiably tough questions about aspects of his approach. He's not used to being under this type of pressure and hasn't reacted particularly well either. So it's probably just as well the internationals are out of that camp for a few months and can focus on getting back to their best form at their province.

Leinster were poor enough the last time out against the Cheetahs but the win was enough to guarantee them first place in the conference and a home semi-final in the play-offs. They will be looking to keep their winning run going away to Edinburgh who've been having a fine season. In Europe they have qualified for the first time in years coming out of a pool with French giants Toulon and Montpellier and are now home to Munster in the quarter-finals next week. But they have gone off the boil somewhat in the league losing three of their last four games including a crucial loss to Benetton last time out. This has seen them slip back to fifth and they need to make up a seven point gap on third placed Ulster with just four matches left.

Scotland international back-row John Barclay will make his long-awaited Edinburgh debut tomorrow and is named in a starting XV that features 10 internationalists - four of whom started in last weekend's remarkable 38-38 draw at Twickenham. Scotland stars Darcy Graham, Hamish Watson, Ben Toolis and WP Nel all return for tomorrow night's match. Scotland centre Matt Scott also returns to action for the first time in over five months following a head injury sustained back in October. A revamped back-three sees Graham return to club action following last weekend's two-try performance against England. The winger is joined by fullback Dougie Fife and wing Duhan van der Merwe, with both players returning from injuries. Scott, who makes his seventh start of the season, is partnered by James Johnstone in midfield. Experienced scrum-half Henry Pyrgos captains the side, with Jaco van der Walt at stand-off.

Pierre Schoeman is named at loosehead prop and packs down alongside Scotland pairing Ross Ford and Nel, while Toolis is partnered by fellow club centurion Fraser McKenzie in the second-row. Barclay makes his debut at blindside flanker with Scotland star Watson at openside, while Fijian international No. 8 Viliame Mata returns to the No. 8 jersey.

For Leinster, Ciaran Frawley comes in at full back for his first start in the number 15 jersey, with Fergus McFadden on the right wing and Barry Daly on the left. In the centre Joe Tomane makes his first start since injuring his hamstring in November and is joined in the centre by Noel Reid. Luke McGrath is back from a knee injury to take his place at scrumhalf with Ross Byrne outside him at number ten. In the pack the front row sees Ed Byrne, Sean Cronin and Michael Bent selected with Josh Murphy making a first start in the second row alongside Mick Kearney. Captain Rhys Ruddock is joined in the back row by the fit again Dan Leavy and Max Deegan.

On the bench Nick McCarthy is the final player to make a welcome return from injury with the 23 year old selected for the first time since November.

Leinster have named a weaker team and as the game is effectively meaningless to them, Edinburgh's greater need and stronger side should win the day handily enough.

Team Lineups

Edinburgh Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Dougie Fife 15 Ciaran Frawley
Darcy Graham 14 Fergus McFadden
James Johnstone 13 Noel Reid
Matt Scott 12 Joe Tomane
Duhan van der Merwe 11 Barry Daly
Jaco van der Walt 10 Ross Byrne
Henry Pyrgos (C)
9 Luke McGrath

Pierre Schoeman 1 Ed Byrne
Ross Ford 2 Sean Cronin
WP Nel 3 Michael Bent
Fraser McKenzie
4 Josh Murphy
Ben Toolis 5 Mick Kearney
John Barclay 6 Rhys Ruddock (C)
Hamish Watson 7 Dan Leavy
Viliame Mata 8 Max Deegan

Replacements Cameron Fenton 16 Bryan Byrne
Allan Dell 17 Jack McGrath
Simon Berghan 18 Andrew Porter
Callum Hunter-Hill 19 Jack Dunne
Magnus Bradbury 20
Oisin Dowling
Charlie Shiel 21 Nick McCarthy
Simon Hickey 22 Jimmy O'Brien
Chris Dean 23 Conor O'Brien

Not Considered
Due to Injury

Will Connors,
Devin Toner,
Robbie Henshaw,
Josh van der Flier
Officials Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (WRU), Rhys Jones (WRU),
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2019-03-21