MIKE Blair has brought back most of his leading Scotland internationals in a much-changed Edinburgh team to play Munster tomorrow night. Darcy Graham, Duhan van der Merwe, Mark Bennett and Blair Kinghorn return to the back division, while Pierre Schoeman and joint captains Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie are back in the pack. Fijian star Bill Mata also returns for the match at the DAM Health Stadium.
Wes Goosen is the only back who began last week’s defeat by Benetton who retains his place in the starting line-up to face the Irish province, although he moves from wing to full-back, replacing Henry Immelman. And just two members of the pack keep their places – lock Jamie Hodgson and openside flanker Luke Crosbie.
Paddy Harrison, a replacement in the 24-17 defeat in Treviso, starts at hooker instead of Stuart McInally. Scrum-half Ben Vellacott and centre Chris Dean are also promoted from the bench, while replacement hooker Tom Cruse could make his debut if called on.
Emiliano Boffelli, Dave Cherry, Cammy Hutchison, Immelman, Adam McBurney, Stuart McInally, Sam Skinner and Hamish Watson are all listed as unavailable.
There will be a minute’s applause before the game in memory of Doddie Weir, and Edinburgh have called on their supporters to wear tartan as a tribute to the Scotland international, who died last Saturday after a long battle with motor neurone disease.
“First and foremost, this week has been really tough for all connected to Scottish rugby,” head coach Blair said. “Doddie was such a huge figure and the enormity of what he managed to achieve to raise both awareness and money in the fight against MND is unmeasurable – the thoughts of all of us at Edinburgh Rugby go out to his family, friends and former teammates.
“As a squad, we’ve spoken a lot about Doddie this week and what he stood for. It’s brilliant that we’re able to pay tribute to a real icon of Scottish rugby tomorrow night and it will be an emotional moment as we celebrate his life pre-match.”
Edinburgh are fifth in the URC table after picking up that losing bonus in Italy, while Munster, who have had an indifferent season so far by their own standards, lie ninth after winning just three of their first eight games. However, having gained losing bonus points in three of their five losses, they believed they were not far away from rediscovering their best form, and recent weeks have vindicated that confidence. They beat a strong South Africa ‘A’ side 28-14 despite being without eight of their Ireland internationals, then in their last league outing got the better of Connacht 24-17.
“We’re delighted to welcome back a number of our internationalists for what is a really tough match-up, with one of the league’s most competitive sides,” Blair added.
“Munster are a quality outfit but we’re up for the challenge and excited to be back at DAM Health Stadium in front of our home support, who will no doubt play their part in creating an electric atmosphere.”
Munster have made five changes from the team that began against Connacht, including winger Simon Zebo, who will line up opposite Graham in what promises to be one of the key head-to-heads.
Edinburgh (v Munster at the DAM Health Stadium, Friday 7.35pm): W Goosen; D Graham, M Bennett, C Dean, D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott; P Schoeman, P Harrison, L de Bruin, J Hodgson, G Gilchrist (co-captain), J Ritchie (co-captain), L Crosbie, V Mata. Substitutes: T Cruse, B Venter, W Nel, M Sykes, N Haining, C Shiel, J van der Walt, J Lang.
Munster: S Daly; C Nash, A Frisch, R Scannell, S Zebo; J Carbery, C Casey; J Loughman, N Scannell, J Ryan, J Kleyn, T Beirne, P O’Mahony (captain), J Hodnett, G Coombes. Substitutes: D Barron, J Wycherley, R Salanoa, J O’Donoghue, A Kendellen, P Patterson, J Crowley, P Campbell.