Need to Know: Racing 92 v Glasgow Match Preview

KO 3.15 at Stade Yves-du-Manoir, Saturday 10th December
Live on BT Sport

Team Talk:
This should be a high class contest, with no less than 28 capped internationals starting the match. Racing 92 have a definite edge in this respect though with 518 test caps to the Warriors 296. That’s at least in part due to the ‘veteran’ nature of the home side’s lineup. There will be 8 over 30s on the field at the start of the game for Racing (none for Glasgow) and the average age of their XV will be 29.9 (versus 25.6 for the visitors).

15 of the Warriors 23 played last time the 2 sides met in Paris. Can they use the memories of last season’s defeat to motivate them to what would be one of the most famous victories in the club’s history?

Teams

RACING 92
15 Brice Dulin
14 Joe Rokocoko
13 Casey Laulala
12 Anthony Tuitavake
11 Juan Imhoff
10 Dan Carter
9 Maxime Machenaud (c)
GLASGOW WARRIORS
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Alex Dunbar
12 Sam Johnson
11 Lee Jones
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price

1 Eddy Ben Arous
2 Dimitri Szarzewski
3 Cedate Gomes Sa
4 Manuel Carizza
5 Leone Nakarawa
6 Wenceslas Lauret
7 Yannick Nyanga
8 Antonie Claassen

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

16 Camille Chat
17 Viliamu Afatia
18 Luc Ducalcon
19 Gerbrandt Grobler
20 Chris Masoe
21 Xavier Chauveau
22 Benjamin Dambielle
23 Albert Vulivuli

16 Corey Flynn
17 Alex Allan
18 Sila Puafisi
19 Brian Alainu’uese
20 Josh Strauss
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Mark Bennett
23 Sean Lamont

Head to Head:

Back 3 – ADV Glasgow
A bold call possibly with some outstanding players on show for both sides but Glasgow look to have a slight edge on paper with Hogg / Seymour / Imhoff surely the strongest composite trio. Maybe if it was the Joe Rokocoko of 10 years ago it would be a different story – but 8 tries in 32 games for Racing is some way off the strike rates he had for the Blues and New Zealand.

On the other side, at kick-off, it will have been 783 days since Tommy Seymour last scored in European competition (v Bath at Scotstoun before you start googling). Tennessee Tam is overdue in the Champions Cup and the Warriors’ faithful will be crossing everything that he can break that duck in Paris – and finally score a try this season with the number 14 on his back!

Centres – EVEN
The only uncapped player in the backline is Sam Johnson who starts his 5th consecutive Champions Cup match for Glasgow in the 12 jersey. With the Warriors’ fulcrum, Alex Dunbar, back in harness there’s a good balance to the midfield in attack.

It will be interesting though to see how they line up (and ultimately perform) in defensive duties against the veteran pairing of former All Blacks, Casey Laulala and Anthony Tuitavake. Even at 34 years of age both men still have the sort of quick feet that can win the battle for time and space in the centre of the pitch.

Half Backs – ADV Racing
There’s not much left to be said about the ageless Dan Carter. OTOTM was fortunate enough to be in the Cake Tin the night he ripped the British and Irish Lions apart and it still stands the test of time as the individual player performance that all others should be measured against.

Carter is paired with the spiky Maxime Machenaud who is a crucial element in directing Racing. The French scrum half has shown he can be got to though, notably in the semi final and final of last year’s tournament. Can Glasgow’s youthful pairing of Ali Price and Finn Russell put him under that much pressure though?

Front Row – ADV Racing
It’s been a mixed bag for the Warriors’ scrum in this season’s Champions Cup. First up against Leicester they held their own to help set the platform for Glasgow’s tries before blitzing the Tigers late on (when they should have been awarded a penalty try). 8 days later in Thomond Park it was the Warriors’ pack in reverse as Munster dominated up front.

With a massive Racing trio anchored by the only uncapped forward in the starting units in Cedate Gomes Sa (and let’s be honest Portugal would have capped him by now if he had been willing) Glasgow need to front up and contain the Parisians’ power.

Second Row – EVEN
It’s the battle no-one in Glasgow ever wanted to witness but now it’s on it will be absolutely fascinating to see former clubmates Jonny Gray and Leone Nakarawa face off. International duties meant they only started together 10 times at lock for the Warriors last season but when they did they formed one of the outstanding partnerships in European rugby.

Their second row allies may not have attained the same rarified level as Jonny and Leone but Tim Swinson and Manuel Carizza combine high work rate with that most intangible of attributes (and an essential for locks) – ‘a bit of dog’. Expect some fierce encounters when these 4 meet around the fringes.

Back Row – EVEN
Another intriguing set of encounters here among the 6 men who will make key contributions to who wins the collisions and can get their side on the front foot – or slow their opponents’ ball. Bob Harley and Wenceslas Lauret provide the quietly understated hard graft. Simone Favaro and Yannick Nyanga will be all about the muscular athleticism and speed – although Simone’s focus is more on the destructive defensive processes and Nyanga is like an extra back in attack.

In the number 8 position are 2 men who have shown themselves to be true warriors on the pitch and who will put their bodies on the line time and time again. Ryan Wilson may be glad he is starting against Antonie Claassen though rather than Chris Masoe, a man so hard he appears to have been carved out of granite.

Subs – ADV Racing
Another 12 capped players on the benches says a lot about the quality that is required to compete at this level, although the focus is more likely to be on maintaining the performance levels rather than changing the game. If OTOTM was forced to pick one man who could alter the pattern of play though it would have to be Henry Pyrgos. A rare appearance off the bench for the Warriors (only his 2nd in 18 months) will see Henry look to control the game and dictate the pace for Glasgow as opposed to the more off-the-cuff stylings of Ali Price.

Warriors One to Watch:
He’s an obvious choice for this selection any time he plays for Glasgow but this game more than ever will test Jonny Gray as he jumps straight back into the Warriors’ lineup for the first time in 6 weeks. Gray jr. will be a key figure in the efforts to control the game around the fringes of the breakdown and stopping the his side from being outmuscled by the Racing pack and will also be Glasgow’s primary ball carrier.

As captain his decision-making will be vital. Add in motivating his troops and communicating effectively with the referee and there’s a lot for a 22 year old to take on! Jonny has consistently shown he is up to the task though and he needs all of his teammates to follow his example as much as they possibly can if there is to be an upset in Paris.

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

    • 3 wins, 9 losses. 1 Try BP, 3 Losing BPs. 16 points in total out of a possible 60.
    • Last season was the first time Gregor Townsend’s men had split the Champions Cup matches against a French side having done the double over Montpellier – but lost both matches versus Castres, Toulon and Toulouse.

Past meetings:
They had never met before January’s match up – but this campaign’s double header will make it 4 games in a calendar year for the 2 sides.

9/1/16 Racing 34-10 Glasgow (Stade Yves-du-Manoir) Report
After a tight first half where the Warriors blew some good field position and half chances, Racing took over in the second period and simply mauled Glasgow out of the game. The work Dan McFarland has done through the week to counter this tactic could be crucial if the visitors are to stay in touch with their hosts for 80 minutes.

23/1/16 Glasgow 22-5 Racing (Rugby Park) Report
Racing travelled with a weakened squad having already qualified for the latter stages of the Champions Cup – but Glasgow were grateful for any kind of win having lost 4 on the bounce. One moment of magic from Stuart Hogg lit up a fairly drab night in Kilmarnock.

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

Officials:
Referee: JP Doyle (Eng)
Assistant Referees: John Meredith (Eng), Wayne Falla (Eng)
TMO: Trevor Fisher (Eng)
Citing Commissioner: Gordon Black (Ire)

It’s been more than 2 years since Mr. Doyle last refereed a Glasgow game, with the Warriors only other previous experience of the English/Irish whistler coming a further year prior to that. Glasgow lost the penalty count by a solid margin on both occasions (a combined 26 v 16 against Montpellier away and Toulon at home).

The main culprits in those matches were the Warriors’ tighthead props. Against Toulon, Moray Low and Ed Kalman gave up 4 penalties. In Montpellier it was Euan Murray and Roussouw de Klerk who combined for 7 offences (including a penalty try). Zander Fagerson and Sila Puafisi should consider themselves well warned…

Glasgow’s wider disciplinary woes have been discussed at length in “We need to talk about: Cardmageddon“. Suffice to say the chances of the Warriors making it through the game with 15 men on the pitch at all times do not appear high – though if they can manage this feat they will give themselves a much better chance of getting a result at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir

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