Edinburgh prop Al Dickinson played a key role in securing Friday’s glamour home European semi-final, but tonight his sole focus will be on preventing another Irish party breaking out at BT Murrayfield.
Dickinson was part of the Scotland team that crashed 40-10 to Ireland on the last day of the RBS Six Nations, effectively handing the title to that afternoon’s opponents.
Last weekend at the Madejski Stadium in Reading he enjoyed a happier outcome against green shirts when Edinburgh won their European Challenge Cup quarter-final 23-18 at London Irish to seal a last-four place, with Dickinson the hero of the hour as he held up David Paice over the line and denied a last-gasp, potentially tie-winning home try.
Dickinson can’t deny that the European adventure has brought a buzz to the club but insists tonight’s visit of Irish giants Munster is huge in its own right as Edinburgh strive to seal a top-six Guinness Pro12 finish and qualification for next season’s elite European Champions Cup.
“You don’t need any external motivators for Munster,” said the Scotland loosehead. “They are one of the best teams in Europe and all our remaining games now are massive games.
“We’ve got a chance in the league to finish top six .”
Dickinson admits that 30-point thumping by Ireland was “gutting” and is determined to make a point tonight.
“I’m sure Paul O’Connell and the Ireland boys have a recent good memory of being here but it’s up to us to turn it around,” he said.
“We know what’s coming, they are a class outfit and we’ve got to improve massively from last week’s performance, cut down our errors and not give away silly penalties.”
The games are coming thick and fast for Edinburgh thanks to their European Challenge Cup run but Dickinson is happy with that, even though Munster will be fresh from a weekend off.
“Me personally I like to play every week,” he explained. “When it comes to this time of year you just want the games to come. We’ve had an up and down year and we now just want to finish on the right note.”
Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons has stuck with the same starting XV that won at London Irish and is under no illusions about how tough a test tonight will be against the star-studded Irish province. “Munster pride themselves on their physicality,” said Solomons.
“They’ve actually got a very well balanced team.
“They’ve got a strong pack of forwards with Paul O’Connell, who is talismanic for them. They are led by Peter O’Mahony who is a great captain, in the Paul O’Connell mould. They have good half-backs, Conor Murray is one of the best scrum-halves in the northern hemisphere. [Ian] Keatley has played a Test recently when [Jonny] Sexton was out against Italy and acquitted himself very well.
“At centre they’ve got Andrew Smith who played for the Brumbies and is a big physical lad out of Australian rugby league.
“Keith Earls played for the British and Irish Lions. Simon Zebo on the other wing. So they are strong.”
Solomons continued: “We know we’ll have to play very well. The break they have had will be good for their Test players.
“Ireland had a great Six Nations so they’ll have a lot of confidence as a team. And then of course the Pro12 is the only thing they can win this season and Anthony Foley came to watch us at London Irish.
“He’s a good guy and a good coach but he’s not going to come down unless they regard this game as very important.
“They are pretty much at full strength, well rested and highly motivated.
“I’ve got a huge respect for Munster from the time when I coached Ulster [2001-2004]. There have been times when Ulster have been strong, and Leinster have been very strong but I think in Ireland it is Munster that is very much look upon as the heartbeat of Irish rugby.”
While Edinburgh chase a top-six spot, high-flying Munster have eyes on the title itself and, with four games of the regular season left, are looking to nail down a semi-final place, preferably a home one if they can end up in the top two.
After tonight, Edinburgh’s final Pro12 games are Zebre at home, Dragons away, then champions Leinster at home.
Meanwhile, Solomons said it was too early to tell if international centre Matt Scott will play any part in the season’s run-in. Scott picked up another shoulder injury in the Six Nations after previously missing the first half of the season following surgery.
“He was scoped on Thursday and we are waiting to hear,” said Solomons.
“I wouldn’t like to say anything because I’m not a medic. Once we get the report back we’ll know where we stand.”