Rugby: Leinster match now a key clash says Grant

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Edinburgh flanker Roddy Grant believes tonight’s league match against Leinster in Dublin has assumed greater importance as Michael Bradley’s men look ahead to their forthcoming Heineken Cup semi-final encounter with Ulster.

While Grant will be focusing on an attempt to move Edinburgh away from second bottom spot in the RaboDirect Pro12 table, he is eyeing the opportunity to post a third successive win and boost his claim for selection in the European competition.

“It’s a huge game,” said the 25-year-old, who replaces Ross Rennie in the starting line-up. “Where we are in the league table is embarrassing and we want to move up.

“But, importantly, it’s momentum into the semi-final, pride in the league table, and beating Leinster, who are a good side. There’s plenty of motivation. Every game is important. We have these two games – Leinster this week and Cardiff next week – then it’s into the Heineken Cup.

“If guys get their chances this week and next week, you’ve got to take them. Everyone in the squad wants to be playing in the semi-final. But it’s important that we win these two games for momentum and being in winning teams helps selection as well.”

He admits that the mood in the Edinburgh camp has been boosted by last Saturday’s result, and is urging his colleagues to deliver a repeat performance tonight as Edinburgh bid to topple the league leaders on Irish soil for the first time since 2005.

“It’s always good coming into training after a win, let alone a fantastic win and an occasion such as we had at the weekend. It’s been a good week of training and we are looking forward to Leinster.

“It’s great for the confidence to beat a huge side like Toulouse. To win when there was a huge crowd and a big game with a lot at stake is really pleasing – to know we’ve got the mettle to do it. You log these things in the back of the mind and it’s experience – you know you can do it as a team. It was big.

“We’ve obviously reviewed the weekend and that was great. Morale is up and it’s great having won, but we have another big effort this weekend. Leinster are a quality side and fellow semi-finalists,” he said. “We’ve been gearing up to that this week.”

Grant’s return is one of five changes to the starting side. At scrum half, Chris Leck replaces Mike Blair, who was injured during the Heineken Cup triumph, while, in the pack, Kyle Traynor takes over from Allan Jacobsen, who also took a knock against Toulouse, Esteban Lozada is called into the squad to start in place of Grant Gilchrist at lock, and Stuart McInally is fielded at blindside instead of Dave Denton. Rennie, Gilchrist and Denton are joined on the bench by prop Robin Hislop.

Leinster have made wholesale changes to the side that saw off Cardiff Blues in last weekend’s Heineken Cup quarter-final.

Only three of the players who started in that encounter have been named in a line-up that nevertheless includes eight Irish internationals for a match that could see Leinster cement a play-off place.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh yesterday confirmed two more signings as Bradley builds for next season. Welsh caps John Yapp and Richie Rees will join from Cardiff Blues. The arrival of Yapp, combined with the earlier capture of the South African W P Nel, will offer competition to the current front row incumbents Jacobsen and Geoff Cross. Rees will replace Mike Blair, who confirmed on Wednesday that he is leaving the club.

Stating that he has not yet completed his recruitment programme, Bradley said: “We are comfortable with the direction we are going and we are comfortable with the recruitment. But there will be others.

“We have 26 professional players, we have access to EDPs [Elite Development Players], who have been outstanding this year, then you have sevens availability and the system in Scotland means that is close to 50 players. That is a big resource to manage.”

Yapp and Rees are the club’s third signings this week, with the Georgian international back rower Dimitri Basilaia also having agreed terms.