Need to Know: Munster v Glasgow Match Preview

KO 1.00 at Thomond Park, Saturday 22nd October
Live on Sky Sports 3

This is a match cannot help be tinged by sadness at the untimely passing of Anthony Foley. As a man who was Munster through and through, there could be no more appropriate place than Thomond Park and no more fitting tournament than the European Cup for a match that will pay tribute to his memory. Hopefully Glasgow can play their part in honouring Anthony by giving everything to the performance, the way he did game after game.

As an opposition fan he was exactly the kind of player I wanted to have in my team. Sure he was talented in his position, with the physical attributes to overpower those that stood on his way. But it was the will to win, the sheer bloody-minded determination that set him apart and inspired a culture among his Munster teammates that took them to 2 Heineken Cup trophies. When he was on the pitch he was not only a great player in his own regard, he also made everyone around him play better.

He is a great loss to the world of rugby but the loss is nothing to that suffered by his family. One hopes the outpouring of affection and the high esteem he was held in is some small comfort to them. Gus am bris an là. Rest easy Axel.

Team Talk:
Glasgow currently have 14 names on the injured list but Gregor Townsend can still call on the vast majority of his strongest XV – and pick 6 very experienced internationally capped players on the bench. Only once in their history have the Warriors managed to win both the opening rounds of the European Cup – everyone at the club knows how significant this result could be for their ambitions of progressing in the tournament.


15 Simon Zebo
14 Darren Sweetnam
13 Jaco Taute
12 Rory Scannell
11 Keith Earls
10 Tyler Bleyendaal
9 Conor Murray
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Sean Lamont
13 Alex Dunbar
12 Sam Johnson
11 Rory Hughes
10 Finn Russell
9 Henry Pyrgos (c)

1 Dave Kilcoyne
2 Niall Scannell
3 John Ryan
4 Donnacha Ryan
5 Billy Holland
6 Peter O’Mahony (c)
7 Tommy O’Donnell
24 CJ Stander

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

16 Duncan Casey
17 Brian Scott
18 Stephen Archer
19 Robin Copeland
20 Jack O’Donoghue
21 Duncan Williams
22 Ian Keatley
23 Ronan O’Mahony

16 Pat MacArthur
17 Alex Allan
18 Sila Puafisi
19 Lewis Wynne
20 Simone Favaro
21 Ali Price
22 Mark Bennett
23 Peter Murchie

Head to Head:

Back 3 – ADV Munster
With 10 tries and 2 MotM awards between them Sarto and Seymour are big misses for Glasgow. Sean Lamont and Rory Hughes have both shown some decent form of their own though and will provide a much more direct challenge to the Munster defence than the trickery and elusiveness of the men they are replacing. By contrast the home side have Keith Earls coming off the injured list and this just tips the odds in their favour in this area.

Centres – ADV Glasgow
Munster have struggled for consistency in midfield with players coming and going, not quite working out or not quite living up to expectations. The current pairing looks to have the most potential of any they have put out for some time though. Centre is an area that Glasgow go very deep in (which is fortunate given the amount of injuries they’ve suffered in this position over the past couple of seasons!) and they will look to eke out an advantage here.

Half Backs – EVEN
The preferred composite pairing would surely be 9. Murray 10. Russell but a look at some of the 2 sides recent matches would soon disabuse anyone of the notion that Pyrgos or Bleyendaal were passengers in their respective partnerships. Finally free of persistent injuries Bleyendaal has quickly become a vital part of the backline for Munster – particularly in light of Johnny Holland’s unfortunate retirement through injury. Henry Pyrgos was pulling the strings for Glasgow against Leicester and his personal duel with Conor Murray could go a long way to shaping the game.

Front Row – EVEN
For so long this has been an area where Glasgow have struggled. Teams have targeted their setpiece, wrecking Warriors’ possession and providing a consistent source of penalties. It’s taken a long period of hard graft but last week’s performance against Leicester put the exclamation mark on the improvement of Reid, Brown, Fagerson et al. Still, the visitors will be sorely tested by a home side that prides themselves on being able to dominate their opponents physically and who will be looking make a statement against another Scottish side after dismantling the Edinburgh scrum a few weeks ago.

Second Row – ADV Glasgow
Jonny Gray is a freak. There – I said it. But it’s just what everyone is thinking. 87 tackles made in 6 games this season. Just the single, solitary miss. His work rate is so enormous the other Glasgow forwards can often be found daydreaming round the side of rucks, safe in the knowledge the co-captain has it covered…Grizzled doesn’t do justice to the Munster pairing. They build them tough in the West of Ireland and Billy Holland and Donnacha Ryan will battle for every yard in attack and defence – but the Warriors pairing just have the edge in class.

Back Row – ADV Munster
Munster put out an outstanding unit that blends pace (Tommy O’Donnell), power (CJ Stander) and a grounding in the dark arts of forward play (Peter O’Mahony). Glasgow’s back row is almost a mirror image of their host’s but Munster just look to have a slight advantage here – on their day their 6, 7 & 8 could take to the field as en masse for Ireland (although to be fair on another day Joe Schmidt cold go with an entirely different trio).

Subs – ADV Glasgow
The Warriors have a few players on the bench who could change the game when they come on (in particular Favaro, Price and Bennett). The Munster subs look to have a wee bit more of a drop off from the starting XV.

Ones to Watch:
The battle between Josh Strauss and CJ Stander would be one to watch on any day, but never more so during a match to celebrate the life of a great number 8. Both men have a reckless disregard for their own safety, throwing themselves into contact and relishing the physical confrontation. Number 24 for the day, Stander has been one of Munster’s most consistent performers but he will have his hands full containing a resurgent Strauss who looked back to his best in an aggressive outing against Leicester.

Toony’s Track Record…
…against Pro 12 sides in the Champions Cup:

    • 2 wins, 4 losses. 1 Try BP, 1 Losing BP. 10 points in total out of a possible 30.
    • It took Gregor Townsend’s men until the 5th attempt before registering a win against a fellow Pro 12 side in the Champions Cup. Ulster and Cardiff Blues both did the double over the Warriors before the Scarlets subsided to Taqele Naiyaravoro’s pace and power.

Past meetings:
Despite both being involved in the competition for 17 years out of the 20 it has run (Glasgow missing out 3 times, Munster have always qualified) this will be the two sides’ first ever meeting in the Champions Cup. Instead here is a look back at some classic Pro 12 encounters in Ireland.

12/4/14 Munster 5-22 Glasgow (Thomond Park) Report
With the last 2 season’s away trips to take on Munster falling during international window this is actually the last time the sides met at full strength in Thomond Park. The Warriors muscled up in a way they have rarely managed in Limerick and took their chances to come away with a win and a big confidence boost (and all on the same day the club was victorious at the Melrose 7s!)

01/12/12 Munster 31-3 Glasgow (Thomond Park) Report
Gregor Townsend’s first visit to the province ended in a heavy defeat off the back of possibly the poorest performance of the Toony era. A number of the current Glasgow squad played that day and they will be well aware what happens to sides who fail to prepare and execute their gameplan effectively away to Munster.

11/05/08 Munster 18-21 Glasgow (Musgrave Park) Report
This was Anthony Foley’s last ever home appearance for the men in red and although he signed off with a try, Glasgow were the party poopers as they earned their fifth straight victory to close out the season. For the Warriors it was an early indicator of the progress Sean Lineen was making, Foley and Munster had to be content with the minor consolation of picking up their second Heineken Cup trophy two weeks later!

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

Referee: Jerome Garces (Fra)
Assistant Referees: Adrian Descottes (Fra), Sebastian Cloute (Fra)
TMO: Arnaud Blondel (Fra)
Citing Commissioner: Yves Thieffine (Fra)

M. Garces has only refereed a Warriors game once in the last 6 years so his style is unlikely to be all that familiar to some of the current crop of Glasgow players. Stuart Hogg will not be among them having been both yellow and red carded by the French whistler at the Millenium Stadium…M. Garces has had his critics over his handling of the scrum over the years – although most of his detractors are those who have been on the wrong end of the penalty count! He tends to side strongly with a team that appears to have the upper hand which means it’s incumbent on the Glasgow pack to back up their strong showing against Leicester and not give the referee any reason to whistle them off the park.

7 games into the season and it’s becoming clear that Glasgow’s disciplinary struggles are almost entirely to do with yellow cards and nothing else. In 6 Pro 12 matches the Warriors are averaging less than 8 penalties per game – fewer than any other team in the league. In the same time frame they have amassed 6 yellow cards – more than anyone else in the competition. It’s a fairly extraordinary state of affairs but one that suggests if the team can keep cool heads in specific situations then this can be turned around more easily than if they were constantly giving away penalties.

Credit to the Cardiff RFC Fans site for the penalty analysis of the other Pro 12 sides.

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