Edinburgh, Leinster, the 18-year hex and why this is the time to believe
The 27-13 win at Donnybrook took place on November 6, 2005 and was played out in front of just 1700 supporters. Irish rugby’s revolution was still in its infancy as Peter Jorgensen, Fergus Pringle, Simon Webster and Alasdair Strokosch scored tries for the visitors whose stand-off, Phil Godman, kicked seven points. As we approach the 18th anniversary of that victory in the old Celtic League it’s hard to escape the feeling that another Edinburgh win in Dublin is long overdue and Saturday’s afternoon’s renewal at the RDS Arena offers them as good a chance as they could wish for.
Leinster had 18 players away with Ireland at the Rugby World Cup. Johnny Sexton, their captain and leader, has since retired and the other 17 remain absent. Edinburgh, by contrast, have reintegrated most of their big guns even if they are missing some key men through injury. This game marks the return of Pierre Schoeman and Duhan van der Merwe who join Blair Kinghorn, David Cherry, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson and Luke Crosbie in a XV that features eight of Gregor Townsend’s World Cup squad, with another two on the bench. Leinster’s strength in depth is well known but this is an opportunity Edinburgh must grasp, as their new coach, Sean Everitt, acknowledged.
“When you look back, 18 years seems like a long time,” he said. “Edinburgh have always been in the fight against Leinster but haven’t managed the result. It comes down to a bit of a belief. We’re sitting with a team that’s laden with internationals so there’s no reason why we should lack belief, although the last time we beat them was 18 years ago. We’ve got to be accurate in our performance. We know what we have to do to be able to beat Leinster and it’s a matter of once again being resilient and sticking to our plan. Because Leinster will stop you if you give them soft moments.”
Everitt has guided his new charges to wins over the Dragons and Lions in his first two games in charge. Neither victory was perfect, both required grit and Everitt sees plenty of room for improvement. “We had a poor start against the Dragons and then fought back into the game,” said the coach. “We gave up a lot of turnovers and didn’t finish off our opportunities. Likewise against the Lions. It’s actually in our hands and something we’ve worked on in training. If we can limit our turnovers against Leinster, why wouldn’t we come away with a result? It’s really up to us and how we perform.”
Edinburgh have made five changes in total. Van der Merwe replaces Ross McCann on the left wing; Charlie Shiel comes in at scrum-half for Ben Vellacott; Schoeman takes over from Boan Venter at loosehead; Nel starts ahead of Javan Sebastian on the other side of the scrum and Tom Dodd deputises for Mata in the back row.
There is also a potential debut for 18-year-old scrum-half Hector Patterson who is on the bench. A product of Jed-Forest and Hawick, he is the son of former Scotland scrum-half Derrick Patterson who played at the 1995 World Cup. “Hector has been training with us since pre-season and with Scott Steele's injury and Ben Vellacott out this week for personal reasons it is an opportunity for Hector to show what he can do for us,” said Everitt.
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