Need to Know: Glasgow v Ulster Match Preview

KO 7.35 at Sold Out Scotstoun Stadium, Friday 23rd September
Live on BBC2 Scotland and BBC NI

Team Talk
Instinct suggests that the Warriors line-up has been weakened by injuries with the list of absentees doubling from where it was before the last home game against Scotstoun. However Glasgow can still call on no less than 18 full internationals for the matchday 23. The squad’s depth may be being tested for the first time in this campaign but this is still a strong side. Ulster travel without Craig Gilroy, the Warriors’ tormentor in chief last season (seriously the guy seemed to have been dipped in butter the way the tackles fell off him), but in his place comes the major attacking threat of Charles Piutau in his first away match for his new club.

Teams

GLASGOW
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Leonardo Sarto
13 Mark Bennett
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Tommy Seymour
10 Finn Russell
9 Henry Pyrgos (c)
ULSTER
15 Jared Payne
14 Louis Ludik
13 Darren Cave
12 Stuart McCloskey
11 Charles Piutau
10 Paddy Jackson
9 Ruan Pienaar

1 Gordon Reid
2 Fraser Brown
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Greg Peterson
5 Jonny Gray (c)
6 Tjiuee Uanivi
7 Lewis Wynne
8 Ryan Wilson

1 Andrew Warwick
2 Rob Herring (c)
3 Rodney Ah You
4 Alan O’Connor
5 Franco van der Merwe
6 Iain Henderson
7 Sean Reidy
8 Roger Wilson

16 Pat MacArthur
17 Alex Allan
18 Sila Puafisi
19 Sam Thomson
20 Matt Fagerson
21 Ali Price
22 Nick Grigg
23 Rory Hughes

16 Rory Best
17 Callum Black
18 Ross Kane
19 Pete Browne
20 Clive Ross
21 Paul Marshall
22 Stuart Olding
23 Rob Lyttle

Head to Head:
Back 3 – ADV Glasgow
Centres – ADV Glasgow
Half Backs – EVEN
Front Row – EVEN
Second Row – ADV Glasgow
Back Row – ADV Ulster
Subs – ADV Ulster

Glasgow Greetings:
A busy evening with first Warriors’ starts for Tjiuee Uanivi and Lewis Wynne and potential debut appearances for Sam Thomson and Matt Fagerson. Sam and Matt will become the 8th and 9th Scottish Rugby Academy players to feature for Glasgow in the last year should they come off the bench. At 18 years and 69 days Zander’s wee brother will be the 2nd youngest Warrior ever – beaten only by the remarkable John Barclay who was 18 years and 43 days when he played his very first match (credit to Moody Blue and gordon on the glasgowwarriors.com forum for that little nugget of information!) A certain Finn Russell should also get a very warm welcome as he returns to action at Scotstoun…

Matchday Milestones:
Sila Puafisi will play his 25th match for the Warriors, demonstrating remarkable consistency – he has only missed 3 games since he first featured against the Ospreys just under 11 months ago. Gordon Reid is winning the race to be the next Warrior Centurion – this will be his 98th appearance for Glasgow. The Scotstoun Express will be due a rest week in the next fortnight though so he will need to be patient a little longer before he gets to see his picture on Centurion Way!

Warriors One to Watch:
Two of the outstanding backlines in the league will clash on Friday night but while they should provide much of the entertainment and the highlight reel moments On Top Of The Moon suggests the back row battle should be worth keeping an eye on. Ryan Wilson will be the key man for Glasgow in this contest. With the rest of his unit (including replacement) only having 7 Pro 12 appearances between them, Ryan’s 89 games in this competition mark him out as the experienced head who will need to guide the rookies through the match.

Sometimes unfairly derided as a penalty magnet, his stats show he’s conceded less than a penalty a game – one every 101 minutes – which is fairly typical for a Glasgow number 8 / flanker. His adaptability and work rate have been key to the balance in the Warriors’ back row on so many occasions and he will need to be at his very best against Ulster. (Symmetry fans will also appreciate there being an R. Wilson at the back of both sides of the scrum for most of the evening…)

Toony’s Track Record…

…against Ulster:

  • League play – 5 wins, 3 losses. 2 Try BPs, 1 Losing BP. 23 points (58%)
  • Playoffs – 1 win
  • Champions Cup – 2 losses
  • With just a single away win for each side in their 11 match-ups the advantage has definitely tended to lie with the home team in encounters over the past 4 years.

Last season’s match-up:

1
Number of Glasgow players paying attention when Ulster took a quick lineout for Stuart McCloskey to score – and Finn Russell wasn’t close enough to intervene. This was most assuredly not one of the Warriors’ finer moments last season as experienced players switched off allowing Ulster to extend their lead. Glasgow have to be aware of every opportunity (in defence and attack) if they are to win what could prove to be a key game in this season’s Pro 12.

6
Minutes of rugby Finn Russell has played in the month prior to taking on Ulster – he finished the game with 14 points, 2 tries created and the Man of the Match award. Can lightning strike twice? Can the Finnocent One again shake off his lack of game time and be Glasgow’s most influential player?

171
Passes made by Glasgow – one of their highest totals of the season and considerably more than Ulster’s 119. Until the last 20 minutes there was plenty of effort but little penetration against a stoic defence. By contrast Ulster saw far less of the ball but consistently made ground for the first 60 minutes. The Warriors need to find the space in or behind the Ulster defensive line and find a way to shut down their dangerous strike runners if they want to continue their fine home form.

Home and Away:
Glasgow last 5 (H) – W W W W W
Ulster last 5 (A) – L W W L W

Officials:
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 51st competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (WRU), Cammy Rudkin (both SRU)
Citing Commissioner: Douglas Hunter (SRU)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (WRU)

It may be just the 4th game of the campaign but Glasgow have already been refereed by Mr. Davies this season – and this will be his 6th Warriors’ match in the last 12 months. Every one of the previous 5 fixtures have seen a Glasgow player carded by the Welsh whistler. It is a point that has been laboured many a time and oft at OTOTM but in a game between sides as closely matched as these two it is absolutely essential that the Warriors avoid playing short-handed or they will present Ulster with a significant advantage.

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