The current Magners League season is shaping into its most competitive ever, and with the end of season play-offs to aim for, the battle for the top four placings is already intriguing.
With only five points separating the top seven clubs, it’s already evident that every point gained, be it in victory or defeat, looks vital when it comes to the business end of the campaign.
Defending champions Munster, who will seek to build on the momentum of last Saturday’s second half display against Treviso, know they’re in for a hell of an examination in Murrayfield this Friday.
Edinburgh have made considerable strides in recent seasons, due in so small part to the fact that half of their 36-strong squad were born in the city in which they ply their trade.
“Edinburgh is a good club to be a part of and we’ve all brought our own ideas to create a real club feel to it,” said skipper Mike Blair. “The more guys you have coming through and only playing in Edinburgh does make a big difference – you create a strong identity.
“The more guys you have playing together over a long period of time then the more successful a club will be…camaraderie off the pitch can often support the teamwork on the pitch.”
That strong parochial sense is something which Munster’s players and fans can empathise with, and that sense of togetherness makes Edinburgh dangerous opposition for the champions.
Munster go into this game seeking to get back to winning ways in league action, following their heavy defeat at the RDS, and a series of injuries has forced Tony McGahan to adjust accordingly.
Last Friday night, Stephen Archer was in action for Munster A in Clonmel and he could scarcely have imagined he’d be in Murrayfield a week later.
It’s a big step up for the 21-year-old tight-head, who, standing six feet two inches and weighting 112 kilos, isn’t your average member of the front row club.
As manager Shaun Payne said when naming the squad earlier this week, this is a chance for the Cork Con man to put his hand up and stake his claim.
Given injuries and John Hayes’s suspension, Munster’s front row at Murrayfield will be the first time that the named trio will have crouched down in competitive football for the province.
And that’s not a bad thing. The time will come when McGahan will not be able to call upon the stalwarts that have contributed so handsomely to Munster’s success, so it’s more than useful to get a look at what the next wave are capable of.
If Edinburgh played in an arena similar to Firhill, where Munster have already lost this season, they’d be an even more difficult proposition.
Row after row of empty seats at Murrayfield renders a hostile atmosphere pretty much impossible to create, but the hosts have an excellent record against Irish teams on their own paddock in recent seasons.
Defeat will leave Munster with three wins and three reversals from their opening half-dozen Magners outings, something they’ll be keen to avoid given the looming break for the Autumn internationals. A mightily difficult assignment awaits them.
Munster: P Warwick; I Dowling, L Mafi, J de Villiers, K Earls; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; Darragh Hurley, D Fogarty, J Brugnaut; D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell capt; N Ronan, D Wallace, D Leamy. Replacements: D Varley, S Archer, M O’Driscoll, D Ryan, P Stringer, D Hurley, F Jones.
Edinburgh: C Paterson; J Houston, B Cairns, N De Luca, T Visser; P Godman, M Blair capt; K Traynor, R Ford, G Cross; S Turnbull, S MacLeod; A MacDonald, R Grant, SNewlands. Replacements: A Kelly, A Jacobsen, C Hamilton, A Hogg, G Laidlaw, A Turnbull, S Jones.