Edinburgh boss Richard Cockerill hands Fijian lock first start and is braced for 'huge test' at Leinster
Richard Cockerill knows his Edinburgh side face a stern examination when they take on reigning champions Leinster, but believes they can follow up last weekend’s victory over Cardiff Blues with another away scalp.
Edinburgh have opened their Guinness PRO14 campaign with two consecutive victories to sit second in the Conference B standings behind Munster.
The Capital club will travel to Conference A leaders Leinster on Friday night (kick-off 7.35pm) looking to extend their winning streak, and while Cockerill knows that will be far from easy, he is taking inspiration from their 19-11 win at Cardiff Arms Park last time out.
“It’s another big challenge for us,” head coach Cockerill told the club’s official website. “They’ve got some real experience in key areas in the spine of that team.
“If you let Leinster get on the front foot and control the tempo of the game, they’re going to cause problems.
“Whenever you go to Dublin, you’re always going to face a huge test. They have a huge amount of experience across that team and they can win games with 15 guys missing at the World Cup.
“We know that they’ll be dangerous and we know that everyone will expect them to win, but people probably thought that last week when we travelled to Cardiff. We’ll go to Leinster with optimism and we’ll go there to win.
“I was unsure where we’d get to with Cardiff - they had a good win on the road at Kings and they’re not missing many, and there’s been a bit of chat from them asking is this the year they do a Connacht and get a good start and all that sort of stuff.
“We had to go away from home and stay in the battle and take the points home. It’s a hard place to go and play.
“I’m not a betting man, but I’m sure the odds were pretty much against us getting a result. But I’m delighted with it because it’s four points we gain and teams will find it hard to go there and win.”
Mesulame Kunavula will make his first start for the club while fellow forward Jamie Hodgson also comes into the XV following injuries to Fraser McKenzie and Lewis Carmichael.
Edinburgh team to play Leinster: Damien Hoyland; Jamie Farndale, Mark Bennett, George Taylor, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Nic Groom (c); Pierre Schoeman, Mike Willemse, Pietro Ceccarelli, Jamie Hodgson, Murray Douglas, Mesulame Kunavula, Luke Crosbie, Nick Haining. Replacements: Cameron Fenton, Jamie Bhatti, Murray McCallum, Sam Thomson, Ally Miller, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, James Johnstone.