Irish play host to Edinburgh
November 11, 2011
London Irish's Tom Homer has been in phenomenal form for the Exiles this season © Getty Images
London Irish start their European campaign against Scotland's Edinburgh at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
The Exiles' dreams of European silverware were dashed by French powerhouses Toulouse at the semi-final stage back in 2008 but under the guidance of Toby Booth they have a squad which could well cause some of the tournament favourites some problems. They have experienced a promising start to the 2011-12 season and currently lie third in the Aviva Premiership table. In the aftermath of the World Cup, they have since welcomed England's Shontayne Hape, Scotland's Joe Ansbro and Canada's Jebb Sinclair to the Madejski.
Their opponents on Saturday, Edinburgh, have struggled in the 2011-12 RaboDirect PRO12 season and are third from bottom with three wins from eight games. Their European pedigree fares little better having reached the quarter-finals of the tournament on just one occasion. Similar to London Irish, it was Toulouse who brought an abrupt end to their European aspirations with a commanding 36-10 win back in 2004.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Flanker Jamie Gibson was a stand out performer against Leicester last weekend but can he back it up with another strong showing?
London Irish - Team News: London Irish make three changes and a positional change from the side that played against Leicester Tigers last week. James Buckland lines up in the front row alongside Alex Corbisiero and Paulica Ion. Nick Kennedy and Matt Garvey will form the second row partnership with All Black, Bryn Evans, moving to the back row.
Edinburgh - Player to Watch: Nineteen-year-old Harry Leonard is set to pull the strings for Edinburgh - will he handle the pressure of his Heineken Cup debut?
Edinburgh - Team News: Edinburgh have made just one change to the starting line-up that defeated Treviso last weekend. Stuart McInally moves up from the bench to No.8 at the expense of Fijian internationalist Netani Talei, with his promotion making space for Roddy Grant. The squad has been boosted by the return of lock/flanker, Sean Cox, who returns for his first match following a knee injury sustained against Scarlets last month, and centre James King, who come into the squad at the expense of Steven Turnbull and Chris Leck respectively. The stability in selection means Leonard, centre Matt Scott and lock Grant Gilchrist making their Heineken Cup debut while fullback Tom Brown is set to do likewise if called upon from the bench.
Key Battle: Nick Kennedy's return to Irish's second row - where he will partner Matt Garvey - will no doubt improve an uncharacteristically wobbly lineout but they face a battle in the form of Edinburgh's Esteban Lozada and Grant Gilchrist.
Trivia: Suspended fullback Delon Armitage is London Irish's top try-scorer in the competition with 10.
Stats: Brendan Laney holds the record for the most points scored in a match for Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup with 23 against the Ospreys back in the 2003-04 season
"If you want to progress out of the group stages in this competition you have to win your home games, starting tomorrow. As I have said previously, all four teams in the group look to play an exciting brand of rugby so it should make for an entertaining spectacle."
"London Irish are quite aggressive in defence which is one of their trade marks. They also have a big, big pack who will look to put us under pressure so we'll have to counter that."
Prediction: Irish to make home advantage count and make a flying start to their European campaign.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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