Need to Know: Glasgow v Cardiff Blues Match Preview

KO 7.35 at Scotstoun Stadium, Saturday 7 January 2017
Live on BBC ALBA

Both sides are rebuilding after strong starts to the season gave way to some (at best) indifferent Pro 12 form. The Warriors need the points to stay in the hunt for the playoffs, their opponents know that a defeat sees a top 6 place slipping away (something that would have been the least of their ambitions before the season started).

The Toony Tombola spins up 8 changes, compared to just 2 for the visitors. How will freshness fair against familiarity on Saturday evening?

Teams

GLASGOW WARRIORS
15 Peter Murchie
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Mark Bennett
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Lee Jones
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price
CARDIFF BLUES
15 Matthew Morgan
14 Alex Cuthbert
13 Rey Lee-Lo
12 Willis Halaholo
11 Blaine Scully
10 Steven Shingler
9 Lloyd Williams

1 Gordon Reid
2 Pat MacArthur
3 D’arcy Rae
4 Tim Swinson
5 Jonny Gray (c)
6 Josh Strauss
7 Simone Favaro
8 Ryan Wilson

1 Rhys Gill
2 Kristian Dacey
3 Anton Peikrishvili
4 Macauley Cook
5 James Down
6 Ellis Jenkins
7 Sam Warburton (c)
8 Josh Navidi

16 James Malcolm
17 Alex Allan
18 Zander Fagerson
19 Robert Harley
20 Adam Ashe
21 Grayson Hart
22 Rory Clegg
23 Sean Lamont

16 Matthew Rees
17 Brad Thyer
18 Scott Andrews
19 Jarrad Hoeata
20 BJ Edwards
21 Tomos Williams
22 Nicky Robinson
23 Rhun Williams

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

Matchday Milestones:
Two half centuries for Mark Bennett as he makes his 50th Warriors start and also plays in his 50th Pro 12 match.

5 converted tries against Treviso left Glasgow on 2,999 points during the Gregor Townsend era – who will bring up 3,000?

Warriors One to Watch:
This game will give Mark Bennett a big opportunity to showcase his skills ahead of the final 2 Champions Cup pool matches. He has been a regular starter in the Pro 12 but the Johnson / Dunbar pairing has been Toony’s go to option in Europe, having been selected to start together in Glasgow’s last 6 Cup matches (although Alex was a late withdrawal prior to the Leicester game with Mark moving up from the bench).

Mark needs to show he can match his outrageous footwork and eye for a gap with smart decisions on when to move the ball. The Cardiff pairing of Lee-Lo and Halaholo will also be a good test of whether his defence of the tricky outside channel is robust enough to take on Munster and Leicester.

(And of course there’s also the small matter of wiping away memories of last season’s match against the Blues and the ultimate bombing of a certain try!)

Toony’s Track Record…
…against the Blues:

  • Pro 12 – 8 wins, 1 loss. 3 Try BPs. 1 Losing BP. 36 points out of a possible 45 (80%)
  • Champions Cup – 2 losses. 1 Losing BP.
  • Only the 2 Italian sides provided a better source of league points during Gregor Townsend’s first 4 seasons at the club.

Last season’s match-up:

1
Yellow cards conceded. The sin binning arose as result of persistent infringements late on and went to the luckless Scott Cummings after he (according to Mr. Phillips) strayed offside. It was the only penalty the young lock gave up in his 389 minutes during the 2015/16 campaign! The Warriors discipline has improved of late (although it’s still far from perfect) and they need to stay in control of the game to avoid the late cards that blighted both fixtures against the Blues last season.

31
Number of lineouts in the game – the second highest of the season for a Warriors’ fixture. With both teams missing some players and integrating others back in from Six Nations duties there was a lack of cohesion for much of the match. Adding in the 14 scrums, there were 45 set pieces making for a stop start match. Given that both these sides like to play open, running rugby the expectation is that this should be a more entertaining fixture and it may come down to which set of forwards can create the most space for their backline.

227
Club matches in the career of Michael Robert Leighton Blair, who played his last ever game when Cardiff visited Scotstoun in 2016. The Warriors’ faithful enjoyed Mike’s brief playing sojourn with the club but his influence for Glasgow is likely to be far greater as a coach. It can already be seen in the development of Ali Price who is close to taking over as the club’s number 1 number 9 and who plays the game with the same speed of thought and heads up awareness that Blade brought to the scrum half’s role.

Home and Away:
Glasgow last 6 in Pro 12 (H) – W W L W L L
Cardiff Blues last 6 in Pro 12 (A) – W W L W L L

Officials:
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU, 18th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Keith Allan (SRU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)

Mr. Brace has only refereed the Warriors on 2 previous occasions in his short career. He was the man in charge for last season’s 10 try romp against Zebre at Scotstoun – where Glasgow edged the penalty count. He also officiated earlier this season when the Warriors travelled to Dave Parade. It was the Dragons who largely incurred his wrath, conceding 12 penalties to a (season low) 4 given up by Glasgow. He did though yellow card Fraser Brown for a borderline no arms tackle – one of 11 he’s dished out in 6 games this season (1.83 per game gives him the 3rd highest average in the Pro 12).

The Irish whistler is trying to make his way up the ladder and like many young refs has a slightly officious manner. In this regard he is the antithesis of a Nigel Owens-type official. When Mr. Brace makes a decision, that’s it – there is no banter and certainly no discussion, just a thousand-yard stare until it’s time for the next play. Jonny Gray should not expect much response, other than being shooed away, if he tries to question a call.

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