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Thursday 8 December 2016

Blues at a dead end

Leinster have to be wary of nippy Hidalgo-Clyne

Edinburgh will believe they can shoot straight through Leinster's newest centre partnership between Collie O'Shea and Noel Reid at Murrayfield this afternoon.

The main reason for this is the late, great form of centre Sam Beard as a slippery runner sure to test out former Old Belvedere boy O'Shea, known to have a certain admirer with the initials BOD.

It was just last Saturday O'Shea was manning the thirteen jersey for Clontarf in the Ulster Bank final. This is one heck of a step up.

The same can be said for Academy back-three strike runner Cian Kelleher, who was part of the Lansdowne side that edged out 'Tarf last Saturday.

The AIL's 'Rising Star of the Year' should be sprung from the bench at some point.

The front five has a solid, all-Ireland international look about it with Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross supported by lineout leader Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy.

The loose forwards can run with the best of them, Jordi Murphy, Sean O'Brien and captain Jamie Heaslip all eager and effective at the breakdown.

It is in the backline where the uncertainty begins.

It is a while since Ian Madigan wore the number ten jersey with O'Shea and Reid a novelty pairing inside a quality back three of Rob Kearney, Zane Kirchner and Dave Kearney.

While Beard has impressed for Edinburgh, it is scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne who has really taken the eyes of Leinster.

"Sam has been fantastic for them. He's been a real find. He is one of the form nines in the competition," said coach Matt O'Connor.

"They are big and physical, strong set-piece and quite a big threat at home.

"It will be a very physical game. It will be tough because they will be really up for it."

Of course, Leinster can do Connacht a brotherly favour by limiting the home side to a pointless return as they trail the Western Province by one point with the Champions Cup qualification up for grabs. between them.

"We all know what is at stake and that we have to be at our best to challenge for a spot at Europe's top table next season," said Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons.

Leinster would do well to forget about the complicated series of results that could influence their seeding for Europe.

It would be easy to carry a fuzzy focus into Murrayfield because there are so many players and coaches who would rather be somewhere else. There is an element of sadness about how injury has denied Shane Jennings a proper run to the end of his race.

At least, Gordon D'Arcy could bid farewell from the field of play, while Jennings was restricted to the role of a frustrated spectator.

Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser; T Heathcote, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford, J Andress, A Bresler, B Toolis, F McKenzie, H Watson, C du Preez.

Leinster: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, C O'Shea, N Reid, D Kearney; I Madigan, I Boss; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Ross, D Toner, M McCarthy, J Murphy, S O'Brien, J Heaslip (capt).

Verdict: Leinster.

edinburgh v leinster (KO 3.0)

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