Munster v Edinburgh: big guns return to boost visitors’ hopes

Ritchie and Van der Merwe among those returning, but injury list remains lengthy

Duhan van der Merwe
Duhan van der Merwe is back in the Edinburgh line-up for the match against Munster. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

JAMIE Ritchie, Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland are all back in the Edinburgh team to play Munster tomorrow as Richard Cockerill’s side bid to end a run of four defeats. There are seven changes in all from the line-up that started last week’s loss to Ospreys, with George Taylor, Nic Groom, WP Nel and Hamish Watson also returning.

The team looks more solid on the whole than the one that lost 25-10 last week, and the return of scrum-half Groom in particular should go some way to addressing the leadership problems that the head coach identified as an issue in the PRO14 opener. At the same time, however, significant injury problems remain. Blair Kinghorn is still out along with longer-term absentees Bill Mata, Henry Pyrgos, Fraser McKenzie and Matt Gordon, while Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Charlie Shiel and Chris Dean join the list after being injured against Ospreys.

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Ritchie and Watson, who was on the bench last week, take over from Bradbury and Crosbie respectively in the back-row, Sutherland replaces Pierre Schoeman at loosehead, and in the fourth change to the pack Nel is preferred at tighthead to Simon Berghan. Behind the scrum, Groom is at 9 instead of Shiel, Taylor is at inside centre in place of Dean, and Van der Merwe replaces Jamie Farndale. Back-row forward Mesu Kunavula and centre James Johnstone are the two newcomers to the bench.

“I think we’ve got to go there and put in a performance that’s worthy of us as a team,” Cockerill said after announcing his team. “If we get our performance and mentality right, there’s no reason why we can’t push them very hard and be in the game to try and win it.

“We still have some guys missing, but we have a good side and we’ve got to front up. We need positives from the game, hopefully the points, but we need to start playing better in key moments. Munster have a great team, but we have our own expectations and standards to live up to. We’re looking forward to facing a talented Munster side tomorrow night and the boys are up for the challenge.”

Edinburgh beat Munster 18-16 in the only game between the sides last season, a result that went a long way to ensuring they finished ahead of the Irish province at the top of Conference B. But that game was in Cork, whereas tomorrow’s match is at Thomond Park in Limerick, traditionally a more formidable venue. Munster’s team that November night was also significantly weakened by key absences, whereas Edinburgh were a lot closer to full strength.

Edinburgh (v Munster at Thomond Park, tomorrow, 7.35pm): D Hoyland; D Graham, M Bennett, G Taylor, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Groom; R Sutherland, S McInally, WP Nel, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, N Haining. Substitutes: M Willemse, P Schoeman, S Berghan, A Davidson, M Kunavula, D Nutton, N Chamberlain, J Johnstone.

Munster: M Haley; A Conway, A McHenry, R Scannell, M Gallagher; B Healy, C Casey; J Loughman, R Marshall, J Ryan, F Wycherley, T Beirne, J O’Donoghue, T O’Donnell, CJ Stander (captain). Substitutes: K O’Byrne, J Cronin, R Salanoa, G Coombes, J Hodnett, C Murray, J Crowley, D Goggin..

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

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Stuart Bathgate
About Stuart Bathgate 914 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.