Need to Know: Glasgow v Racing 92 Match Preview

KO 7.45 at Sold Out Scotstoun Stadium, Friday 16th December
Live on BT Sport 2

Time for a rematch at a point in the European season when Glasgow’s ambitions have frequently been dented. All the more reason to back up last week’s stunning victory in Paris and take another step forward for the club in the last days of the Townsend era…

  • The Warrior’s win last Saturday was just their 3rd in 17 attempts on French soil.
  • Glasgow have only once managed to win both legs of the Champions Cup double header (but that was last season v Scarlets).
  • Glasgow haven’t won their 4th game of the tournament since 2002, a  13-12 win over Bourgoin in front of crowd of 2,867 at Hughenden.
  • The 7,351 crowd at Scotstoun has only been bettered once in the club’s European history – 11 months ago at Rugby Park, also against Racing (9,063).
  • Gregor Townsend picks his most experienced 23 of the season, featuring 7 Warrior Centurions and boasting 1,606 previous appearances for Glasgow in total.

Team Talk:
Just a single personnel change in the line up means Toony Tombola must be on temporary hiatus (after churning through 26 changes to the starting XV across the last 3 matches). Simone Favaro is out injured so the back row from the Pro 12 Grand Final are reunited again and Chris Fusaro returns on the bench.

The surgery on the Racing side is far more drastic. In the backline both starting wings from last week drop out. It’s in the pack though that the real transformation takes place. Wenceslas Lauret is the only player to hold on to the same jersey with Leone Nakarawa moving back from lock to number 8 and 6 new faces among the forwards.

The essence of the changes is all about adding size with every member of the recast unit heavier than the man he replaces. In total the Parisians’ scrum will boast an additional 79 kilos (more than 12 stone – or nearly one Ali Price if you prefer) and instead of being 45kg lighter than Glasgow, as they were last week, will now have a 23kg advantage.

Starting XVs

  • Average age – GLA 25.7   RAC 28.5
  • Capped internationals – GLA 14   RAC 12
  • Test caps won – GLA 272   RAC 287
  • Scottish / French qualified players – GLA 14   RAC 7

Teams

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

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 Viliamu Afatia
2 Camille Chat
3 Ben Tameifuna
4 Gerbrandt Grobler
5 Francois vane der Merwe
6 Wenceslas Lauret
7 Chris Masoe
8 Leone Nakarawa

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

16 Dimitri Szarzewski
17 Eddy Ben Arous
18 Cedate Gomes Sa
19 Thibault Dubarry
20 Antonie Claassen
21 Xavier Chauveau
22 Benjamin Dambielle
23 Joe Rokocoko

Head to Head:
For last week’s head to heads click here.

Back 3 – ADV Glasgow
Racing’s trio had an enormous amount of ball in the first match making 44 carries and 34 passes/offloads compared to 18 and 8 respectively for the Warriors’ unit. Rokocoko and Imhoff appear to have paid the price for not making more of that glut of possession though.

With a much bigger pack the away side are likely to kick more than the 9 times they did on Saturday – which could mean more opportunities for Hogg, Seymour and Jones to get into the game.

Centres – ADV Glasgow
The same 4 men face off again this week – and it will be Dunbar and Johnson who will feel happier about how the battle went the previous week. Dunbar in particular was a consistent source of front foot ball in attack and, with more than double the number of tackles of any other outside back on the pitch, the key man in the backline’s defensive efforts.

Racing’s former All Blacks saw plenty of ball but were largely nullified. Laulala’s distribution make him very dangerous though and he is the man that will bring the pace of his back 3 into the game if he is not closed down.

Half Backs – ADV Racing
There was only one winner in the contest between these 2 pairings last week – and it wasn’t the one featuring all-time great Dan Carter. So while on paper the Racing duo still have the advantage Russell and Price are the men in form and will be looking to control the game for the home side.

To that end it was hugely encouraging to see East Stand favourite ‘Wee’ Ali Price so vocal in the last match, bossing his forwards like a veteran rather than a player in just his second season of Champions Cup rugby.

Front Row – ADV Racing
The visitors will be bringing a lot more power to bear at scrum time with their all new combination. Glasgow will be delighted if they can match the parity they achieved last week and contain the Top 14 side.

They will need to watch out for more than just the power of the French unit though. The only scrum penalty the Warriors conceded last time out was when Racing managed to shift them just on the ‘Set’ call which left the Glasgow props in a poor position that quickly turned into a retreating scrum. This will be yet another learning experience for the youngest man on the pitch, tighthead Zander Fagerson, as he learns all the tricks that are so much of the prop forward’s art.

Second Row – ADV Glasgow
Jonny Gray was the hands down winner in his personal battle with old partner Leone Nakarawa at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir. This time out he and Tim Swinson will be facing up to a very different challenge in the shape of Grobler and van der Merwe. There will be less of the fancy stuff and more of the head down and charge to be expected from a pair of South African locks. Do they have the stamina to match the insane work rate of the Glasgow second row though? It seems unlikely…

Back Row – EVEN
Even among a Racing side that venerates its elders, Chris Masoe stands out. At 37 years and 7 months old he is more than 16½ years older than both Zander Fagerson and Camille Chat. He is still an absolute powerhouse in defence and attack though and Glasgow will be well advised to keep the ball moving and out of his sphere of influence.

Simone Favaro is a big loss but the Warriors’ loose trio have shown in the past they can be very effective at winning the collisions around the breakdown and can provide the quick ball the backs will thrive on.

Subs – EVEN
The last game was effectively settled by the time the first batches of changes came 54 to 56 minutes in. Consequently the substitutions had little impact on the match. Racing have the option to switch to a more mobile pack if required. Glasgow will primarily look to Henry Pyrgos and Mark Bennett to either control or change the game depending on circumstances.

Glasgow Greetings:
There have been 7 European debuts for the Warriors so far this season (Sarto, Hughes, Wynne, Matt Fagerson, Grigg, Flynn and Alainu’uese) taking the club up to 199 players used in the Champions Cup. With no debutants this week though number 200 will need to wait until at least January.

Matchday Milestones:
Josh Strauss becomes the 10th player to become a Warrior Centurion in a little over 12 months. With another 4 players in the 90s for appearances (Vernon, Seymour, Hogg and Dunbar) there’s not likely to be any let up in those matching the Beard to be Feared’s achievement. Josh has only known the success of the Townsend era but the majority of these Centurions are players who came together between 2009 and 2011 and learnt their lessons the hard way as part of a young side who finished 2nd last in the Pro 12.

Warriors One to Watch:
Racing’s preference for keeping ball in hand reduced Stuart Hogg’s opportunities to influence the match in Round 3. With a monster pack that needs field position to be effective – and a less expansive game to manage their energy levels – Hoggy should see a few more long clearances heading his way.

He probably would have had a try last week if Tommy Seymour had released him a bit earlier after a coruscating break so doubtless Glasgow’s full back will be looking to make up for that against a midfield and back row that could struggle to cope with his pace and footwork in the open field.

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

    • 4 wins, 9 losses. 1 Try BP, 3 Losing BPs. 20 points in total out of a possible 65.
    • 2 wins over Racing now to add to 2 wins over Montpellier. 5 wins has a nice ring to it. 6 of course would require further progression in the tournament. Do we dare to dream?

Key stats from last week:
The Good
7: the number of times Glasgow turned the ball over to Racing – the lowest of the season. Racing by contrast coughed up possession 20 times. The Warriors need to aim for the same kind of differential again on Friday to stymie the visitors’ attack while remaining efficient when they have control of the ball.

The Bad
24: Number of missed tackles by Glasgow (Racing missed 9). The surfeit of possession enjoyed by their opponents forced the Warriors to make 174 tackles, completing 86% of them. The coaches will be looking for a double whammy of improvements this week – less possession for the away side and lifting the tackle completion to 90% plus – so that there is less pressure on the scramble defence.

The Ugly(ish)
50%: Percentage of lineouts won by Glasgow on their own throw (Racing won all 13 of their own). This was the one area where Leone was as effective as usual – but he was helped by some indifferent work by his old teammates. The Warriors lost 4 lineouts against Treviso, 4 against the Ospreys and 4 against Racing, all with different hookers. If there is a systems issue then Friday would be a very good time to resolve it!

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

Officials:
Referee: George Clancy (Ire)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan (Ire), John Carvill (Ire)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ire)
Citing Commissioner: Alberto Recaldini (Ita)

This will be the third time this season that Mr. Clancy has refereed Glasgow and the Irish whistler has been a regular visitor to Scotstoun over the past 2 seasons, taking charge of 7 matches in that time. Until sending off Brian Alainu’uese against the Ospreys Mr. Clancy hadn’t issued a card to a Warrior’s player in any of those previous games. With the home side going for a season’s best 3rd game in a row without a yellow or a red they could do with the official reverting to type. The Scotstoun faithful will also be praying for good discipline – and a bit of luck…

Picture courtesy of Adrian Henry at the excellent Rugby People

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