Need to Know: Ospreys v Glasgow, Pro 12 Match Preview 2016/17

KO 1.05 at Liberty Stadium, Sunday 26th February
Live on BBC Alba

Team Talk
This week’s selection meeting must have been very brief. Rory Clegg and Fraser Lyle are the only available members of the full-time squad not in the 23 for this match *. That’s contributed to a starting XV with just 528 previous games for the Warriors behind them – fewer even than the sides that took to the field during the Rugby World Cup when 22 players were missing on international duty.

Glasgow and the Ospreys between them are providing 20 of the 46 players who will represent Scotland and Wales at Murrayfield 24 hours earlier. Serious questions have to be asked about whether the Pro 12 should really be playing matches while teams are stripped of their best players during international windows…

15 Dan Evans
14 Keelan Giles
13 Ashley Beck
12 Josh Matavesi
11 Hanno Dirksen
10 Luke Price
9 Brendon Leonard (c)
15 Peter Murchie
14 Junior Bulumakau
13 Nick Grigg
12 Peter Horne (c)
11 Rory Hughes
10 Brandon Thomson
9 Grayson Hart

1 Paul James
2 Hugh Gustafson
3 Brian Mujati
4 Lloyd Ashley
5 Rory Thornton
6 Tyler Ardron
7 Olly Cracknell
8 Dan Baker

1 Jamie Bhatti
2 Corey Flynn
3 Sila Puafisi
4 Brian Alainu’uese
5 Scott Cummings
6 Robert Harley
7 Matt Smith
8 Lewis Wynne

16 Ifan Phillips
17 Gareth Thomas
18 Rhodri Jones
19 James King
20 Sam Underhill
21 Tom Habberfield
22 Kieron Fonotia
23 Dafydd Howells

16 Pat MacArthur
17 Alex Allan
18 D’arcy Rae
19 Tjiuee Uanivi
20 Chris Fusaro
21 Nemia Kenatale
22 Richie Vernon
23 Ratu Tagive

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

Glasgow Greetings:
Matt Smith makes his debut and will almost certainly be joined from the bench by another new boy in Ratu Tagive. They will become (deep breath): the 19th and 20th debutants of the season (more even than in the RWC affected 2015/16 campaign); the 56th and 57th players used by Glasgow (again more than the RWC season); and the 115th and 116th Warriors of the Townsend era.

Matchday Milestones:
This will be match number 150 for Pat MacArthur who is second only to Rob Harley among the current squad for Warriors’ appearances. Pat actually played the 2nd of his 150 games at the Liberty Stadium way back in September 2007.

Warriors One to Watch:
After making a try-scoring debut at full back last week, Brandon Thomson moves forward to run the game for Glasgow from 10. Having a second decision maker outside him, in the shape of skipper Peter Horne, should take some of the pressure off and hopefully allow Brandon to settle into the match quickly.

He may have a Scottish dad but appearances for South Africa in the u20s World Championship mean he is tied to the Springboks. That means this will almost certainly be a brief encounter with the young man from Western Province – there’s also the small matter of a recently signed long-term contract with the Stormers. If he can use his skills to help the Warriors pick up some league points and find some momentum during the 6 Nations window then he will head home with the thanks of the Warrior Nation ringing in his ears!

Toony’s Track Record…
…against Ospreys:

  • 6 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses. 2 Try BPs. 28 points out of a possible 45.
  • Last season’s match at the Liberty Stadium provided just the 2nd draw in Gregor Townsend’s 139 match tenure at the club.

Last season’s match-up:

Advantage to the Ospreys in the penalty count (13-6 against Glasgow). With a rookie ref in charge (see below) any indiscipline can be magnified – innocuous offences become penalties; penalties become yellow cards. Glasgow will be looking to minimise the chances of the officials becoming a factor.

Tackles by Rob Harley – 7 more than any other Warrior. With a 20 and 22 year old alongside him in the back row Big Bad Bob will be a crucial figure in leading by example and setting the tone for the side’s performance at the coal face.

Percentage possession in the first half for the Warriors. Despite this – and over 70% possession – the visitors only held a slender 3 point advantage at halftime and couldn’t protect their lead. Failure to turn pressure into scores has been costly for Glasgow in the Test windows. The players need to be clinical in identifying where the Ospreys defensive line can be broken and come away with points every time they make it into the home side’s 22.

Bonus stats – 5 and 8. Differences in, respectively, weight (in stones) and height (in inches) between Glasgow’s outside centre for this fixture (Nick Grigg) and their number 13 for the same game last year (Taqele Naiyaravoro).

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

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU, 2nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU), Craig Evans (WRU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

It’s seemingly the time of year for Warriors’ virgins among the refereeing fraternity. After Dan Jones last week this time out it’s the turn of a former Connacht, Leicester and Munster player in the shape of Mr. Murphy. Oddly it’s been 3 months since his 1st time in charge of a Pro 12 match (Dragons v Edinburgh – his reviews were not rave). It’s possible he may have spent all that time getting the mud from the Dave Parade potato patch out of his kit…

*  There might also be a third unused player. Hugh Blake is apparently back in Scotland but there are no indications as to what sort of level of fitness he’s at or if he’s only here to get involved with Scotland 7s rather than Glasgow.

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