Need to Know: Connacht v Glasgow, Pro 14 Match Preview 2017/18

KO 7.35 at the Sportsground, Saturday 2nd September 2017
Live on BBC ALBA

One day short of a year since these two sides played out their opening fixture in the last ever season of the Pro 12 they’re back to start their first Pro 14 campaigns. A year is a long time in sport though and only 20 out of the 46 players named for that previous matchup return for this game. That number includes the remarkable (and seemingly ageless) John Muldoon who also played when Connacht and Glasgow met in the 2004/05 season opener.

 

Teams

CONNACHT
15 Darragh Leader
14 Cian Kelleher
13 Eoin Griffin
12 Bundee Aki
11 Matt Healy
10 Jack Carty
9 Kieran Marmion
GLASGOW WARRIORS
15 Ruaridh Jackson
14 Lelia Masaga
13 Alex Dunbar
12 Sam Johnson
11 Lee Jones
10 Peter Horne
9 Ali Price

1 Dennis Buckley
2 Tom McCartney
3 Finlay Bealham
4 Ultan Dillane
5 James Cannon
6 Eoghan Masterson
7 Jarrad Butler
8 John Muldoon (c)

1 Jamie Bhatti
2 George Turner
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Tim Swinson
5 Scott Cummings
6 Ryan Wilson (c)
7 Matt Smith
8 Adam Ashe

16 Shane Delahunt
17 Peter McCabe
18 Conor Carey
19 Sean O’Brien
20 Eoin McKeon
21 Conor McKeon
22 Craig Ronaldson
23 Tom Farrell

16 James Malcolm
17 Oli Kebble
18 Adam Nicol
19 Greg Peterson
20 Matt Fagerson
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Adam Hastings
23 Leonardo Sarto

 

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

Glasgow Greetings:
With 12 new signings in the squad (9 of whom have never played for the Warriors before) and plenty of talent coming through in the Academy there will be debuts galore over the next 2 or 3 months. The initial batch taking their bow in this game are:
Lelia Masaga and George Turner who make their first starts
Oli Kebble and Adam Hastings who should get their first appearances off the bench

Matchday Milestones:
After adding 4 players to the Warrior Centurions’ board last season it’s a flying start to the current campaign with Alex Dunbar racking up his 100th appearance for the club. Peter Horne also marks a century of games in the Pro 14 (including previous incarnations of the league).

Warriors One to Watch:
Ruaridh Jackson is one of a small band among the Warrior Centurions to play 2 separate spells with the club, joining Dougie Hall and Sean Lamont (with Richie Vernon only 3 matches away from becoming part of that group as well). It͛’s more than 10 years since Ruaridh made his debut for Glasgow. On 27th October 2006 he came off the bench to replace Dan Parks at 10 against GRAN Rugby Parma at Hughenden.

1,225 days have also elapsed since his last start for the Warriors on a sunny April evening at Scotstoun against Edinburgh. Only Finn Russell of the current squad has scored more than Ruaridh’s 450 points and it will be interesting to see who is handed the kicking duties on Saturay evening between Ruaridh and Peter Horne. Jacko’s attacking threat will be the main reason for his selection at 15 though and Dave Rennie will want his full back popping up across the back line to test the Connacht defence. It’s worth noting as well that the last time Ruaridh played at the Sportsground he scored one of those semi-mythical (from a Glasgow point of view) drop goals…

The Connacht v Glasgow fixture in the Pro 12 era

  • Regular season:
    • 4 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss.
    • 2 Try BPs. 1 Losing BP.
    • 21 points out of a possible 30 (70%)
  • Playoffs – 1 loss
  • Excluding trips to Italy, the Sportsground provided the most away points in the Pro 12 for Glasgow.

Last season’s match-up:

7
Defenders beaten by Leonardo Sarto.
It may have been Tommy Seymour on the other wing who picked up the first 2 tries of the season but Leo had a fine debut for Glasgow. He also made 4 clean breaks as he helped dismantle the Connacht defence – and added 7 tackles without a miss for good measure. Injury has meant the Italian winger has only started 5 more games for the Warriors since then. He’ll be looking to make up for lost time when he comes off the bench on Saturday.

15
Tackles made by Jonny Gray.
With Richie’s wee brother missing the start of the current season there is a lot of slack to be taken up in terms of workload. Added to those 15 tackles (none missed naturally) were 12 passes, 13 carries and 4 lineout wins. Fortunately Glasgow can call on some players with high work rates of their own in Tim Swinson and Scott Cummings. There will still need to be some kind of division of labour in the pack to cover Jonny’s freky stats in his absence though.

212
Passes made by Connacht.
Added to a further 311 passes in the return fixture at Scotstoun the Irish side shifted the ball more than any other team Glasgow faced last season. This was a real challenge to the defence – and the fitness of the forwards! It remains to be seen whether Kieran Keane is as much of an adherent of keeping the ball moving as Pat Lam was but expect the Warriors’ back row to be covering a lot of ground.

Home and Away:
Connacht last 6 in the Pro 12/14 (H) – W L W W L L
Glasgow last 6 in the Pro 12/14 (A) – W W L L L L

Officials:
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 34th competition game)
AR1: Dan Jones (WRU)
AR1: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)

Mr. Whitehouse and Glasgow conspired to avoid each other for the entirety of last season. He was scheduled to officiate at the Warrior’s Hogmanay clash with Treviso but a cancelled flight scuppered those plans (and left the visitors at the mercy of a rather patchy performance by local ref Elia Rizzo).

Prior to that the Welsh whistler had taken charge of 3 of Glasgow’s fixtures and (some might say unusually) the Warriors have a pretty decent disciplinary record when he is the man in the middle. They average 9.3 penalties conceded per game but have benefited from 13.7 penalties awarded against their opponents in the same matches. Yellow cards are more even at 2 apiece (Tyrone Holmes and James Eddie being sent to the naughty step away to Munster back in 2015).

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