Injury comebacks timely as Leinster face tricky task in Edinburgh

The Scots have named a strong team including a superb back row trio.

VILIAME MATA, JOHN Barclay and Hamish Watson.

It’s quite the back row Edinburgh have named for this evening’s Guinness Pro14 clash with Leinster in Murrayfield [KO 7.35pm, eir Sport/Premier Sports].

Mata is one of the best players in the competition – if not the sport – while Watson’s appearances for Scotland in the final two rounds of the Six Nations left an impression.

Bill Mata Bill Mata is part of a strong-looking Edinburgh back row. Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

Having skittled defenders for fun off the bench against Wales, the openside was part of the Scots’ remarkable comeback to draw with England last weekend.

And then there’s 32-year-old Barclay, the Scotland captain last year and now set for his Edinburgh debut after overcoming a long-term Achilles tendon injury. While he will be short of match fitness and sharpness, Barclay will be eager to make up for lost time.

This trio is just one of the reasons Leinster face a tricky task away to Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh tonight, although the province have also been boosted by big names returning from injury.

Ireland flanker Dan Leavy – so badly missed by Joe Schmidt’s side in the Six Nations – is finally fit after overcoming a calf injury that has kept him sidelined since 22 December, while Luke McGrath – another to miss the Six Nations – returns at scrum-half after recovering from the knee injury he sustained in January.

Australian centre Joe Tomane, yet to convince most Leinster fans of his quality, is also back in the starting side having recuperated from hamstring surgery sooner than initially expected, as Nick McCarthy makes his comeback as the replacement scrum-half.

Leinster have already secured their home semi-final with four regular-season games remaining and have a remarkable 22-point lead at the top of Conference B but this is an important fixture nonetheless.

Leo Cullen’s side will look to regather momentum after a three-week break, particularly with a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Ulster in the Aviva Stadium to come next weekend.

Josh Murphy and Dan Leavy with Dan Sheehan Dan Leavy finally returns for Leinster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The majority of their internationals will only return in time for that contest, although Cullen has been able to include Andrew Porter and Jack McGrath on his bench for this evening.

Sean Cronin, discarded by Schmidt after starting against Italy in round three of the Six Nations, starts at hooker and will surely be out to prove a point over the remainder of this season with the province who have no doubts about his ability to start big games.

The exciting Ciarán Frawley gets his first start at fullback elsewhere in an interesting Leinster team, while an injury issue for Ross Molony means Josh Murphy – usually a blindside flanker – gets his first senior start in the second row.

22-year-old Max Deegan, who is in strong form, shifts into the number eight shirt and will look to provide influence in a back row that also includes Leavy and captain Rhys Ruddock.

The strength of Edinburgh’s XV is reflected in the fact that four of the Scotland team that started against England last weekend are present: Darcy Graham, Watson, Ben Toolis and WP Nel.

With Duhan van der Merwe well established as one of the most lethal attacking players in the Pro14, and Jaco van der Walt and captain Henry Pyrgos providing playmaking control in the halfbacks, Edinburgh will fancy their chances of toppling Leinster.

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Currently fifth in Conference B, five points behind third-placed Ulster, the Scots could do with a victory – particularly with games against play-off rivals Scarlets and Ulster, as well as a visit to Glasgow, to come.

It should make it a fiery affair at Murrayfield.


15. Dougie Fife
14. Darcy Graham
13. James Johnstone
12. Matt Scott
11. Duhan van der Merwe
10. Jaco van der Walt
9. Henry Pyrgos (captain)

1. Pierre Schoeman 
2. Ross Ford 
3. WP Nel
4. Fraser McKenzie
5. Ben Toolis
6. John Barclay
7. Hamish Watson
8. Viliame Mata


16. Cameron Fenton
17. Allan Dell
18. Simon Berghan
19. Callum Hunter-Hill
20. Magnus Bradbury
21. Charlie Shiel
22. Simon Hickey
23. Chris Dean


15. Ciarán Frawley
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Noel Reid
12. Joe Tomane
11. Barry Daly
10. Ross Byrne
9. Luke McGrath

1. Ed Byrne 
2. Seán Cronin 
3. Michael Bent
4. Josh Murphy
5. Mick Kearney
6. Rhys Ruddock (captain)
7. Dan Leavy
8. Max Deegan


16. Bryan Byrne
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Jack Dunne
20. Oisín Dowling
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Jimmy O’Brien
23. Conor O’Brien

Referee: Ben Whitehouse [WRU].

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