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STARS OF THE FUTURE CAN BANISH THE BLUES

Edinburgh Rugby v Cardiff Blues - Match Preview 4 February 2004



While the margin of last Saturday's defeat in Toulouse was a disappointment, the manner was not. True, Edinburgh did not score, and for much of the second half were under the cosh. But they had started out very well, and who knows what might have happened if new Scotland captain Chris Paterson had not been injured early on, disrupting the Gunners' gameplan? Strangely for a Scottish team playing a French outfit, the wet conditions overhead and underfoot actually favoured the home team. A dry, firm surface in April will suit the smaller Gunners much better.

It is, of course, easy to be magnanimous in victory. Unless you're Australian, perhaps. But Edinburgh got a very good press in France following the game. Those fans who are inclined to think that there is an Edinburgh "bubble" that has now burst would do well to read some of the complimentary things that French journalists, and the Toulouse players and coaching team, said about them. This result was a setback, but not a disaster. Edinburgh are still in the Heineken quarter-finals, and if they can pull off a win at the Stade Ernest Wallon, the semi-final will take place in Scotland.

Turning to this week's match against the Cardiff Blues, as the Celtic League resumes, the Gunners make a number of changes from the team that started against Toulouse, with their international contingent having been withdrawn as the 6 Nations preparations gain momentum. Tom Philip has been released to Edinburgh in order to get some game time, as has The Colonel, who has been promoted to Captain Cross for the game.

The blistering pace of Conan Sharman returns to the squad, as Conan will be with us during the Six Nations, and a number of Edinburgh club players will be turning out for the Gunners, with Craig Harrison getting a start at No 8. The Cardiff team will similarly not include the club's Welsh internationals, but it looks strong on paper.

The Gunners' line-up will be much-changed, but will be giving their all. They deserve your support at Meadowbank on Friday night at the usual time, where the ground will be open again for those who prefer that old-time spectating experience. Stand: £15 adults, £8 concessions; Ground: £10 adults, £5 concessions; children 12 and under go free.

Meanwhile, ERC have announced that the Gunners will return to Toulouse on Saturday 10 April at 16.00 French time (15.00 BST) for the rematch. For those who can't travel, the game will also be shown live on Sky TV, as will all the other quarter-finals.

KEY PLAYERS:

For EDINBURGH, once again, there is a golden opportunity for the youngsters to show what they can do, as Messrs Hogg, Cross and Philip did in the Heineken game at Newport last season. Ali Kellock and Guy Perrett in the boiler-house, and Rory Lawson and Ali Warnock at half-back will have a big influence on the outcome of this game. For CARDIFF, in the absence of their 6 Nations players, look out for new Aussie signing Brent Cockbain in the back row, and Ken Fourie in the front. Pieter Muller will give Tom Philip a tough test at inside centre.

ED'S VERDICT

Last weekend's loss was a blow, but there are signs that the squad - rightly - remain positive. As we go into the season's second block of games without many of Edinburgh's front-line stars, it is crucial that the Gunners bounce back on Friday. Cardiff may well feel the Embra backlash, and the Editorial prediction is a comfortable home win.

TEAMS:

Edinburgh Rugby: Southwell; Sharman, Di Rollo, Philip, Joiner; Warnock, Lawson; Jacobsen, Hall, Smith, Kellock, Perrett, Strokosch, Cross (captain), Harrison. Replacements: Di Ciacca, Brannigan, Pike, Fisher, Blackwood, Monro, Dey

Cardiff Blues: van Vuuren; Walne, Allen, Muller, Vaughton; Robinson, Moore; Fourie, R Thomas, Evans, C Quinnell, A Moore (c), Cockbain, Appleyard, N Thomas Replacements: Crompton,Lewis, Senekal, Brownrigg, Sowden-Taylor, Powell, Macleod


European rankings as at 2 February 2004: Edinburgh: 10 (-4) Cardiff Blues: 30 (http://www.eurorugby.com/index.php)

Referee: TBC

Kick-off: 7.30 pm at the Theatre of Dreams, London Road