EDINBURGH will be boosted by the return to action of club captain Stuart McInally for this Friday’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Munster at Irish Independent Park in Cork, following an extended post-World Cup break. However, fellow front-rower WP Nel will be out a few weeks longer than expected after picking up a calf injury.
Meanwhile, the availability for this weekend of back-rowers John Barclay [head] and Luke Crosbie [side] is not clear at the moment after they picked up knocks playing against Bordeaux in the European Challenge Cup last weekend.
“It’s massive [to have McInally back],” said Edinburgh assistant coach Steve Lawrie. “Mike Willemse has played really well, but with Stuart coming back into training last week his energy was excellent. He was running all of Bordeaux’s reps and he was outstanding – trying to get the most out of those guys so that we can get the most out of the 23.
“He seems rejuvenated, he seems excited, it was obviously a tough [World Cup] campaign for all the Scotland guys, but he seems refreshed,” Lawrie added. “This is the first time I’ve worked with him since I played with him and I’ve been very impressed with how he operates.
“He’s your top 10 percent, he comes into work every day and his output is outstanding. So, if involved, he will bring that energy to Munster.”
McInally’s return is timely because although Friday’s draw at home to Bordeaux was not disastrous in the context of the overall season, there is a sense that the team’s momentum has stalled slightly this month after a promising start to the league campaign.
“As we’ve said all along, the European stuff is exciting and a welcome break, but our bread and butter is the league, and this is a massive game particularly after dropping points away to Treviso [at the start of November] when we had opportunities to win,” said Lawrie. “To go to Independence Park, we’ve got to be right on it and be as sharp as we can be. They’re top of our conference so it’s important league points.
“We want a bit of reaction to last weekend as well. You don’t want to be reactive, but this is an occasion for a reaction because we very much feel it was two points dropped. Bordeaux are an outstanding side, but we put ourselves in a position to win that game and the draw felt more like a defeat afterwards.
“Last year we went to Independence Park and did not do well, not as well as we wanted certainly, I think it was 30 points in the end,” he added. “We know that, and we are going there needing to get conference points. They are in our conference and leading it so it is vital we are switched on to our task.”