Michael Bradley wants Edinburgh to gatecrash Cardiff
EDINBURGH enjoyed a party or two last season with their Heineken Cup success, but Michael Bradley leads his troops to Cardiff tonight with a clear intention of wrecking the Blues’ homecoming celebrations.
Cardiff return to the famous old Arms Park, the stadium that witnessed some of the greatest moments in Welsh rugby history, after struggling to fit in at the new Cardiff City Stadium. Back in the centre of the city, adjoined to the Millennium Stadium, the Blues are hoping for a bumper crowd, at least matching the 11,200 that trooped in for the last match at the venue.
On that occasion, just over three years ago, Edinburgh were also the visitors and the Scots left happier, as Phil Godman, Ben Cairns and Nick De Luca ran in four tries between them for a comprehensive 36-14 win. That was an end-of-season affair, however. Now the Blues return with a new coach in Phil Davies and a major turnaround in personnel over the summer, bidding to ignite a new era, and hoping Edinburgh don’t ruin this party.
Bradley, by contrast, commented: “Let’s hope we can continue on that,” when asked how nice it would be to open the Arms Park the way Edinburgh closed it. There’s a lot of confidence in our side at the moment. We’re bitterly disappointed with our result against Munster because we had the game there for the winning. Even though it was a quality game of rugby we still should have won it because we had plenty of opportunities. We must learn to cope with that pressure and expectation and that will be the test for us this season.
“But we know how tough this is going to be. I was talking at the RaboDirect PRO12 launch to Phil Davies and he was excited about it because it’s his first competitive home match, so it’s going to be a big day for Cardiff. They’re bringing back all their internationalists and are expecting a day of celebration. We’re very much aware of that but we performed to a reasonable level against Munster and now have to pick up on that, and this is a great opportunity for us to get the points back that we consider we lost last week.
“Cardiff are one of those sides who will be challenging for the top four, so if we can get the win it will be welcome in terms of what we’re trying to do down there.”
Revealing the rotation he admits will be a big part of the new season for Edinburgh, he brings back props Allan Jacobsen and Geoff Cross, and starts newcomers John Yapp, ex-Cardiff, and Willem Nel on the bench. Flanker Roddy Grant returns for Ross Rennie at openside and Netani Talei is in the squad for the first time this season, which means Dimitri Basilaia drops out. In the backs, the only change is John Houston in for Ben Atiga, who is still suffering with a hip injury.
After edging victory away to Connacht, Cardiff welcome back Wales quartet Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Sam Warburton and Bradley Davies. They should add quality, but will also be short of match fitness. Edinburgh’s Test contingent now have a game under their belt, and Bradley hopes a decent refereeing performance by Irishman David Wilkinson will aid his side’s recovery. Discipline appeared to be an issue on Saturday as Munster enjoyed far more penalties than the hosts, whose first, awarded by Welsh whistler Leighton Hodges, did not come until the 47th minute.
“We’ve gone through the match and have issues with how the game was refereed,” Bradley said. “We were as disciplined as they were, but we got penalised and they didn’t. That’s just a fact of life in a sport that involves a lot of decision-making by the man in the middle.
“But that wasn’t why we lost the match. I would credit Munster with their efficiency at the breakdown. We coughed up two soft tries, they coughed up one soft try and, in the last six or seven minutes, we had three opportunities in the 22 to score but didn’t get over the line and that’s why we lost the match.”
As deflating as the Scottish defeats were, the season is just one game old and, if Edinburgh and Glasgow win tonight, we could witness an overhaul of the league table this weekend with the real potential for all but Munster probably, of the first week’s winners, to lose. Tomorrow Ulster go to the Ospreys, who are hurting after an opening day loss to Treviso – the Italians are in Limerick – yet have sold nearly 10,000 season tickets on the back of their title win last season, while first week winners Dragons head to well-thumped Leinster.
v Cardiff at Arms Park
15 Greig Tonks
14 Lee Jones
13 Nick De Luca
12 John Houston
11 Tim Visser
10 Greig Laidlaw, capt
9 Richie Rees
1 Allan Jacobsen
2 Ross Ford
3 Geoff Cross
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Sean Cox
6 David Denton
7 Roddy Grant
8 Stuart McInally
Andy Titterrell, John Yapp, Willem Nel, Perry Parker, Netani Talei, Chris Leck, Gregor Hunter, Sep Visser.
Cardiff: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Gavin Evans, Dafydd Hewitt, Tom James; Ceri Sweeney, Lewis Jones; Taufa’ao Filise, Rhys Williams, Benoit Bourrust, Bradley Davies, James Down, Josh Navidi,Sam Warburton, Andries Pretorius (capt). Subs: Marc Breeze. Nathan Trevett.Thomas Davies. Lou Reed, Luke Hamilton, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Patchell, Thomas Williams.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
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