MUNSTER WILL HOLD no fear when they board their north-bound flight ahead of Saturday’s Heineken Cup opener at Murrayfield. However, they will know that Edinburgh in European mode can be a much more focused and motivated opponent than often appears in the Pro12.
The sides met four times last season and will repeat the feat again in this campaign. Although Munster won all four of those encounters, they claimed only one bonus point – belatedly delivered after being held to 0 – 0 at half-time of the Heineken Cup meeting in Thomond Park.
How do we put this gently? Edinburgh sit rock bottom, 12th in the Pro12.
They have shipped 17 tries in their five games this season while scoring only four – as a result they have the worst points scored and points conceded figures in the league.
Edinburgh’s one win this season came a week after their 34 – 23 defeat in Musgrave Park when Harry Leonard slotted a last-minute penalty to see off a resurgent Dragons side 16 – 13.
A new coach in Alan Solomons and (they hope) a period of transition ahead, but for now the star names remain. Tim Visser has already hit scoring form with two tries this term. David Denton has made the number eight jersey his home and the hosts will look to him to create front-foot possession.
Players to watch out for
Greig Laidlaw’s return to the fold hasn’t brought the upturn in performance the Scots would have hoped, but his out-half Harry Leonard looks set to be a feature of Scotland squads over the coming decade.
The experienced scrum-half will once more take the goal-kicking responsibility, but should his 21-year-old deputy be called upon, he would appear to have the required poise to kick the opportunities his pack can carve out.
For all their problems, Ross Ford’s presence in the front row brings an old hand and a steadiness to the set-pieces. The hooker will also be key at the breakdown where Edinburgh’s primary objective will be to harangue and frustrate the visitors in the hope of creating turnover ball and open field for Visser, Ben Atiga and Dougie Fife to exploit.
As we mentioned above, the worst defence in the league is an obvious concern and they were picked apart almost at will on the opening day of the season in Cork. However, over a month on, that facet is likely to be much-improved for the Sky cameras.
If Munster are close to the level of last Saturday, it is difficult to see an area Edinburgh can dominate enough to force penalties or gaps so that it counts on the scoreboard.