Edinburgh Rugby coach Michael Bradley is refusing to give up on the top-four place that would secure a RaboDirect PRO12 play-off slot.
Announcing a team that has Steve Lawrie, Greg Tonks, Dougie Fife, Stuart McInally – due to make his 50th Edinburgh appearance – and Ben Cairns back from the successful Scotland A team who beat England Saxons last week, Bradley said: “We are ninth and need to kick on during the nine games we have left.
“A top-half finish would be satisfactory at this stage but the play-offs are still a possibility so we will go for them as long as we can.”
Edinburgh have lost seven in a row in all competitions, stretching back to an away win over Connacht during the Autumn Tests but Bradley’s side will today bid to add to Munster’s woes at Musgrave Park, Cork, where they have lost both games they’ve played there this season.
Today’s will be the fourth meeting between the teams this season, taking into account the Heineken European Cup. Bradley said: “The first match of the season saw us have a good crack at them but we gave away soft tries in the Heineken Cup and they were the better side for both these games. Having the Scotland A boys back should certainly help because it was teamwork and guts that shocked England Saxons.”
Tom Brown returns on the wing after an eight-week absence caused by a knee injury sustained against Racing Metro in Paris, while, on the opposite flank, Dougie Fife will be looking to celebrate landing a two year senior contract earlier this week.
“Dougie has taken his chance at a time when we had Lee Jones, James King, Ben Cairns and John Houston all sidelined,” said Bradley. “In the last couple of months Dougie has become almost an ever-present and this is his opportunity to go forward just as Matt Scott did last season and Tom Brown the year before. Grant Gilchrist is in a similar position while Stuart McInally has been our best player. It’s probably disappointing for him that he has not been in the national set-up but that is the next step.”
Allan Jacobsen is in line to return from off the bench at some stage while Perry Parker and Izaak van der Westhuizen form a second-row pairing that was successful when Edinburgh beat both Ospreys and Connacht this season.
Parker says: “This is a good window for us. Even though the international boys are away there is good depth and we have the same feeling in the squad we had when playing the Ospreys during the Autumn.”
Brown added: “A heavy prop landed on my knee and my initial thought was it could be really bad. It has been a frustrating eight weeks but it could have been worse. By being touch and go for our last match against Saracens three weeks ago and not quite making it, I’ve had extra time to recover.”
Brown, capped against Australia on tour last summer, is aiming now for a trip to South Africa with Scotland later this year. “It’s how you deal with injury situations that determine what kind of player you are” he says. “I’m looking to use these next nine games to get back to where I was in terms of building on the tour.”
Edinburgh Rugby team to play Munster at Musgrave Park (kick-off 7.45pm tonight): Greig Tonks, Dougie Fife, Ben Cairns, Ben Atiga, Tom Brown, Piers Francis, Richie Rees, John Yapp, Andy Titterrell, Willem Nel, Perry Parker, Izak van der Westhuizen, Sean Cox (capt), Stuart McInally, Netani Talei. Substitutes: Steven Lawrie, Allan Jacobsen, Alex Allan, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson, Chris Leck, Gregor Hunter, Lee Jones.