Edinburgh will seek their third straight Magners League win, and their second success on the bounce against Irish opposition, when Ulster visit Murrayfield on Friday (kick-off 7.05pm) for what is always a fascinating fixture.
The capital club saw off Leinster 32-24 in their last home Magners League encounter on September 24, then beat Aironi 10-9 in Lombardy the following week.
As well as offering Edinburgh the chance to maintain this impressive domestic form, Friday’s game will be an opportunity to avenge the 29-21 defeat sustained the last time the teams clashed, at Ravenhill on September 17.
Head coach Rob Moffat has made two changes to the side that began last Saturday’s enthralling Heineken Cup match against Northampton Saints at Murrayfield.
In a reflection of the intensity of that affair, both switches come in the forwards, Andrew Kelly and Ross Rennie included in the starting line-up with Ross Ford and Roddy Grant both rested. In the flanker's absence, Chris Paterson will captain the side.
Grant’s fellow openside Rennie was due to play from the off against the Saints, but was withdrawn on the morning of the match after failing to recover sufficiently from a blow to the head sustained away to Cardiff Blues the previous weekend. Netani Talei took his place in the starting line-up, and the Fijian's reward for scoring the second Edinburgh try is another outing at No.8 on Friday.
On the Edinburgh bench, there are places for Finlay Gillies, the Heriot's hooker who received the 2010 Macphail Scholarship, and fellow Scottish Rugby Elite Development player Grant Gilchrist, a lock. Scott Newlands, recently returned from service with the Scotland 7s team at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, is also among the replacements.
Moffat wants his team to produce a repeat of the attacking intent that saw them land three scintillating touchdowns in the first half against the Saints, and has called on his players to show control and conviction across the full 80 minutes.
He said: “There was a lot to be pleased about in our display last Saturday, but we said all along that getting the win was what counted above all else. The challenge this week is pretty clear: keep performing positively, keep trying to hurt the opposition, and make sure we maintain that edge from first to last.
“We lost a bit of momentum in the second half last week, and Ulster are the sort of team who will capitalise on any drop-off in our performance. The boys know we’ll need to be sharp all night on Friday, and after the Leinster and Aironi wins, they’re keen to keep that sequence going.”
Addressing the tweaks to his pack, Moffat confirmed: “Both Ross and Roddy have played their part in a number of really tough battles in the last few weeks, and even though they’re the sort of guys who want to be out there week-in, week-out, it’s my job to manage the squad and make sure we spread the load.
“Ned [Kelly] has done well when he’s come off the bench this season, and he’s been pushing hard for a place in the team. He’s got a chance now to remind everyone of what he can do, and I’m looking forward to seeing him take it.
“Ross [Rennie] wasn’t quite ready last Saturday, but he’s trained well this week and is raring to go. He’s just the type of player you want on your side against a team like Ulster – we’ll all be up for the battle.”
EDINBURGH TEAM FOR Magners League MATCH AGAINST ULSTER AT MURRAYFIELD, FRIDAY 22 OCTOBER, KICK-OFF 7.05PM
15 Chris Paterson (captain)
14 Jim Thompson
13 Ben Cairns
12 James King
11 Tim Visser
10 David Blair
9 Mike Blair
1 Allan Jacobsen
2 Andrew Kelly
3 Geoff Cross
4 Scott MacLeod
5 Fraser McKenzie
6 Alan MacDonald
8 Netani Talei
7 Ross Rennie
16 Finlay Gillies
17 Kyle Traynor
18 David Young
19 Grant Gilchrist
20 Scott Newlands
21 Greig Laidlaw
22 Alex Grove
23 Mark Robertson