Need to Know: Glasgow v Leicester Match Preview

KO 7.45 at Sold Out Scotstoun Stadium, Friday 14th October
Live on BT Sport 2

It’s been over 15 years since Glasgow last played Leicester in the European Cup. Those were different days with the Tigers at their very peak and heading towards the first of their back to back tournament wins and Glasgow a raw outfit still finding their way in the pro game. On the date of that last meeting (the 20th of January 2001) Wikipedia was only 5 days old – so a piece like this probably couldn’t have been written for that game! While the game was being played, the USA was preparing to inaugurate a president who clearly wasn’t up to the job – so yeah, very different days to now…

Gregor Townsend’s men have only won their opening Champions Cup game once during the coach’s time at the club, putting them under pressure from the start and making it an almost impossible task to qualify for the latter stages. Friday night’s game is a must win if Glasgow are to have a realistic chance of progressing to the quarter finals for the very first time in what will be Toony’s final season with the club.

Team Talk:
This Glasgow matchday 23 have a combined 1,431 appearances for the club behind them – the most of any team named by Gregor Townsend so far this season. Mind you there weren’t many options for the Toony Tombola this week with only 31 players available for selection – 4 of whom are spare front rows or scrum halves and 2 who have yet to make their debut for the club, leaving only Nick Grigg and Peter Murchie as serious alternatives to the 23 selected!

Teams

GLASGOW WARRIORS
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Leonardo Sarto
13 Alex Dunbar
12 Sam Johnson
11 Rory Hughes
10 Finn Russell
9 Henry Pyrgos (c)
LEICESTER
15 Telusa Veainu
14 Adam Thompstone
13 Matthew Tait
12 Matt Toomua
11 Tom Brady
10 Owen Williams
9 Ben Youngs

1 Gordon Reid
2 Fraser Brown
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Tim Swinson
5 Jonny Gray (c)
6 Robert Harley
7 Ryan Wilson
8 Josh Strauss

1 Ellis Genge
2 Tom Youngs (c)
3 Dan Cole
4 Dom Barrow
5 Graham Kitchener
6 Mike Fitzgerald
7 Brendon O’Connor
8 Lachlan McCaffrey

16 Pat MacArthur
17 Alex Allan
18 Sila Puafisi
19 Matt Fagerson
20 Lewis Wynne
21 Ali Price
22 Mark Bennett
23 Sean Lamont

16 Harry Thacker
17 Logovi’i Mulipola
18 Greg Bateman
19 Ed Slater
20 Will Evans
21 Sam Harrison
22 Freddie Burns
23 Peter Betham

Head to Head:

Back 3 – ADV Glasgow
Both sides field their biggest attacking threat at full back which should certainly discourage any aimless kicking and hopefully see the two teams keeping ball in hand. Tommy Seymour is a huge loss for Glasgow – his 7 tries this season are more than the the combined back 3s added together – but so is JP Pietersen for the Tigers. In Touchdown Tommy’s absence Leonardo Sarto has a real chance to put down a marker and along with Rory Hughes will be very active off his wing looking for work.

Centres – EVEN
Matt Toomua will be a crucial figure for Leicester but it will be a tough debut for the former Brumbie. Leicester have sprung a surprise by rotating possibly their most dangerous inside back, Peter Betham, to the bench and moving Matthew Tait out to the 13 jersey where he’ll be facing Alex Dunbar, the man most responsible for getting Glasgow on the front foot. Sam Johnson has displaced Mark Bennett based on current season form and the Warriors pair take the (on paper) advantage by the smallest unit of Scottish measurement – a baw hair.

Half Backs – EVEN
He might be the only uncapped member of the quartet of half backs on show but Owen Williams is no weak link and if he played for a Welsh region he would surely have a number of Tests under his belt by now. His opposite number, Finn Russell, has only played 2 games this season but is likely to be the biggest single influence on how the Warriors perform. His slight edge over Williams nets off against a small advantage for the hugely experienced Ben Youngs against Henry Pyrgos and leaves this battle in the balance.

Front Row – ADV Leicester
It may not be the fearsome Leicester pack of old but the men from the Midlands will still be targeting setpiece dominance. Their front row are more than just scrummage monkeys though with all 3 demonstrating a very high work rate and regularly hitting double digits for tackles. Glasgow will be happy if they can achieve parity in the scrum and negate any benefit for the visitors but it may need to be all about an effective gameplan to prevent the Tigers strength in this area shaping the match.

Second Row – ADV Glasgow
Even among a quartet of hard-working locks, Jonny Gray’s tackle and carry counts (averaging 16 and 12 per game respectively) stand out. The hirsute younger brother of Richie won’t have it all his own way with 2 Leicester second rows who know the standards that have been set in the Tigers boiler room over the years – but with a quality specialist lock beside him in Tim Swinson, Jonny can help take this contest for the Warriors.

Back Row – ADV Glasgow
The fight between the 2 back row trios will be absolutely fascinating. Only Leicester’s all Antipodean triumvarate features a specialist fetcher but there is definitely still more than one eye on the breakdown battle in Gregor Townsend’s selection. This after all is the Glasgow unit that overpowered Munster around the ruck area in their Pro 12 Grand Final win. Leicester’s geroup have all experienced (and thrived in) Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership but the power and workrate of the Warriors unit look to have the chance to gain an advantage here.

Subs – ADV Leicester
The 2 centre replacements, Mark Bennett and Peter Betham, are the most likely game changers from the bench (although the increased tempo that Ali Price will bring for Glasgow could also be influential) but there will be little drop off in standards from either 23. The Warriors though are slightly compromised by injuries to front line locks and back rows so Gregor Townsend will be hoping he doesn’t need to make too many early substitutions and can pick and choose his time to make changes.

Glasgow Greetings:
European debuts for Rory Hughes and Academy players Matt Fagerson and Lewis Wynne (if they come off the bench). Leonardo Sarto will also take his Champions Cup bow for Glasgow, although he has plenty of previous experience of the tournament from his time with Zebre.

Matchday Milestones:
2,050 days after his debut against the Ospreys, Gordon Reid becomes the ninth player in the last year to become a Warrior Centurion. He’s still some way behind Rob Harley though with the Ginger Ninja playing his 143rd match for Glasgow – a feat which sees him join Dan Parks at 10th place in all-time appearances for the club. This also will be the 25th European Cup match for both Ryan Wilson and Stuart Hogg.

Warriors One to Watch:
Tim Swinson made a flying start to the season, capping off a muscular performance in Connacht with a try and following up with another 5-pointer against Leinster. In fact very few Glasgow forwards top his 12 career tries (although it will take a while before he matches Gordon Simpson’s 23 scores!) Tim is known for the hard edge to his play and providing a high workrate – carrying, tackling and hitting rucks but his try-scoring prowess illustrates there’s more to his game. He’s also the most likely among the current pack to provide an offloading threat – maybe not at Fijian levels but enough to keep the game at the kind of tempo Glasgow want to play at. Tim, and all the rest of the pack, will need to be at their best on Friday night if the Warriors are to start with a win.

Toony’s Track Record…
…against English sides in the Champions Cup:

    • 4 wins, 4 losses. 1 Try BP, 2 Losing BP. 19 points in total out of a possible 40.
    • Home teams have won 6 out of the 8 games with the Warriors win at Sandy Park against Exeter being their only away success.
    • Northampton’s win on European opening night last season was Glasgow’s first home loss against English opposition in 7 matches.

Past meetings:
1/11/97 Leicester 90-19 Glasgow (Welford Road)
The less said about this one the better!

12/12/99 Glasgow 30-17 Leicester (McDiarmid Park) Report
The finest win in the club’s short history at the time – and still stands out as one of their very best in European competition.

18/12/99 Leicester 34-21 Glasgow (Welford Road) Report
With defeat fresh in their mind after a 6 day turnaround Leicester got their revenge on home soil.

15/10/00 Glasgow 21-33 Leicester (Hughenden) Report
Dean Richards said some awfully nice things about Glasgow, Gav Scott nearly concussed Jason White on the crossbar – it was a strange sort of day…

20/01/01 Leicester 41-26 Glasgow (Welford Road) Report
Tommy Hayes brought up his 50th point scored against Leicester – but it wasn’t enough to tame the Tigers who went on to win the tournament for the first time.

Home and Away:
Glasgow last 6 pool matches (H) – W L W L W W
Leicester last 6 pool matches (A) – L L L W W L

Officials:
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (Fra)
Assistant Referees: Salam Attalah (Fra), Thomas Dejean (Fra)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (Fra)
Citing Commissioner: Patrice Frantschi (Fra)

This will be the third time M. Raynal has refereed the Warriors with the 2 previous encounters (against Edinburgh in 2014 and the Scarlets in 2015) ending in healthy wins on both the scoreboard (2 try BPs) and the penalty count (totalling 11-22 in Glasgow’s favour). The French whistler dishes out 1.3 yellow cards per game in the Top 14 – below the league average of 1.5 (note for comparison – the Pro 12 average last season was 0.9 cards per match). He has only sent 4 players to the sin bin in his 6 Champions Cup games though – are the players better behaved in European competition or is his approach different on the higher stage?

M. Raynal is a relative rarity among refs as he has never yellow carded a Warriors’ player. Here’s hoping he doesn’t have cause to remedy that anomaly on Friday evening…

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