Michael Bradley shuffled his bench following an injury to Stuart McInally, but otherwise there were no surprises in the Edinburgh team announced today to take on Ulster in the Heineken Cup semi final.
On paper, Edinburgh go into the game nothing less than massive underdogs, but the capital men will be quietly confident about their own ability to cause yet another upset in this European campaign that has been full of them. Their league form is abysmal but if this cup run has shown us anything it is that this Edinburgh team are a different proposition in Europe. They tighten up their defence, sharpen up their tactics and play with massively increased passion and commitment. Ulster have also lost their last two league games (against Leinster and Connacht) since knocking out Munster.
Make no mistake, the “league Edinburgh” still bubbles close below the surface – there are still a few soft tries conceded, there are still yellow cards, still wild passes thrown rather than go into touch. In this semi-final there is no margin for error; Ulster will never be as forgiving of a 2 man advantage as Toulouse were.
The way Edinburgh came out and played Toulouse was something of a surprise but it was pitch perfect. If Bradley has a similar plan for Ulster, he is keeping it close to his chest. He will have to use every ounce of his tactical acumen preparing a plan for his players to beat Ulster. And the players themselves, as with Scotland, will have to play at the top of their game just to be competitive.
They will also have to do it without the massive support they earned at Murrayfield. The Aviva is expected to be packed out with Ulstermen or Irishmen of some description, so it will be a tough job silencing the crowd. But they managed it in Paris. And Edinburgh taking more away fans than their usual average home attendance is in itself something of a miracle…
Ulster have had to make a few changes themselves with Fitzpatrick in for the injured John Afoa, and Willie Faloon in for Chris Henry. Irish U20 standoff Paddy Jackson will retain his starting place at the expense of Iain Humphreys in a backline that looks to be as settled as Edinburgh’s.
Injury worries Ferris, Marshall and Wannenburg have all made the team, and if there is one worry over Ulster it could be the fitness of a few key players. Edinburgh have been lucky in that regard so far this season and will need to call on every ounce of strength to turn over what will be a supremely committed and well supported Ulster team.
For Edinburgh, there is no more style, there is no more flair. There are no more losing bonus points; there must now be only victory.
Edinburgh Team: T Brown, T Visser, N De Luca, M Scott, L Jones, G Laidlaw, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross, S Cox, G Gilchrist, D Denton, R Rennie, N Talei.
Replacements: A Kelly, K Traynor, J Gilding, S Turnbull, R Grant, C Leck, P Godman, J Thompson,
Ulster Team: S Terblanche, A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy, P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, D Fitzpatrick, J Muller (capt), D Tuohy, S Ferris, W Faloon, P Wannenburg.
Replacements: N Brady, P McAllister, A Macklin, L Stevenson, R Diack, P Marshall, I Humphreys, A D’Arcy
Saturday 28th April 2012, Aviva Stadium, Dublin (kick-off 5.45pm). TV coverage live on Sky Sports, radio coverage on BBC Radio Ulster MW, BBC Radio Scotland 810MW; commentary & updates on BBC Sport website.