Opportunity knocks for Edinburgh
November 17, 2011
Michael Bradley guided Edinburgh to a fine away win over London Irish last weekend © PA Photos
Edinburgh will be determined to build on their shock opening-round win away to London Irish when they host Top 14 heavyweights Racing Metro at Murrayfield on Friday night.
Having made a rather underwhelming start to their RaboDirect PRO12 campaign, Edinburgh were not expected to be major players in Heineken Cup Pool 2. However, their stirring 20-19 victory at the Madjeski Stadium last weekend has changed everything and the Scots are now dreaming of making the quarter-finals for the first time since 2004.
First, though, they must see off a Racing side that is laced with top players, including Juan Martin Hernandez, Lionel Nallet and Sebastien Chabal. Racing will be desperate for victory, too, as they go into this clash on the back of a disappointing defeat at home to Cardiff Blues. An intriguing contest awaits.
Edinburgh - Player to Watch: Tim Visser is one of the most lethal finishers in the RaboDirect PRO12 and has averaged a try every two games so far this term. The Dutch winger didn't get over the whitewash last weekend so you can be certain he will be even more determined to get amongst the tries in Edinburgh on Friday night.
Edinburgh - Team News: Captain Greig Laidlaw returns at scrum-half at the expense of Mike Blair in the only change to the back-line which faced Irish. Up front, meanwhile, Netani Talei replaces the injured David Denton at blindside flanker, while Roddy Grant takes over from Ross Rennie on the openside. Steven Turnbull fills the void left by the suspended Sean Cox on the bench.
Racing Metro - Player to Watch: It's always difficult to keep one's eyes off Sebastien Chabal, who remains one of the most recognisable players in world rugby. Edinburgh will have to pay special attention to the former France international this weekend given he has spent the past two months sidelined by injury. The words 'caged' and 'animal' come to mind!....
Racing Metro - Team News: Jacques Cronje makes way for Chabal at No.8, while Bernard Le Roux comes in for Antoine Battut at openside flanker. Elsewhere in the pack, Lionel Nallet is recalled to the second-row after being left on the bench last weekend, Mikaele Tuugahala replaces the injured Andrea Lo Cicero at loose-head and Johannes Coetzee replaces Juan Pablo Orlandi at tight-head. In the backs, Jonathan Wisniewski gets the nod at fullback ahead of Gaetan Germain, Julien Saubade is preferred to Sireli Bobo on the right wing, while knee injury victim Fabrice Estebanez drops out of the midfield to be replaced by Guillaume Bousses.
Key Battle: Harry Leonard is just 19 years of age but he turned in an impressively composed display on his Heineken Cup debut last weekend. However, on Friday night the teenage fly-half will be going up against one of the most naturally gifted players in the game. Injuries have taken their toll on Juan Martin Hernandez and he is currently working his way back to full fitness after a lengthy spell on the sidelines but he still has the ability to decide this game in the visitors favour with a customary piece of magic.
Trivia: Edinburgh had lost their eight previous away games in European competition before last weekend's victory over London Irish at the Madjeski Stadium
Stats: Racing, who made their Heineken Cup debut last season, have won just two of their seven games to date
"Racing Metro will be disappointed with their result last weekend against Cardiff so it's as critical a match for them as it is for us. They'll be desperate to get their campaign up and running and we want to make the most of home advantage." Edinburgh boss Michael Bradley knows that this is pivotal clash in the context of Pool 2
"I feel better and better. I cannot yet do everything I want but that will come with time."
Prediction: Given Edinburgh have home advantage and the fact that Racing have rung the changes after last weekend's loss, we're tipping to hosts to pull off another notable scalp. Narrow home win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
In the wake of another perfect November series, Monday Maul talks to NZRU CEO Steve Tew about the constant demand for perfection
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
The Wallabies showed flair in Dublin, but they still have a way to go if they are to do more than make up the numbers at the World Cup, writes Greg Growden
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton