Need to Know: Cardiff Blues v Glasgow, Pro 14 match preview 2017/18

KO 7.35 at Cardiff Arms Park, Saturday 16th September
Live on S4C

There’s more than a hint of deja vu about this fixture – a year to the day since they met in Round 3 of the 2016/17 season at Cardiff Arms Park the Blues and the Warriors meet in Round 3 of the 2017/18 campaign at the same venue! The home side had won their opening 2 fixtures last season, including a sensational win over Munster in Cork. September has not been so kind to the Blues this time round and they will be desperate to get their first Pro 14 win on the board after defeats to Edinburgh and Leinster.

Teams

CARDIFF BLUES
15 Rhun Williams
14 Alex Cuthbert
13 Rey Lee-Lo
12 Willis Halaholo
11 Tom James
10 Steve Shingler
9 Lloyd Williams
GLASGOW WARRIORS
15 Ruaridh Jackson
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Nick Grigg
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Lee Jones
10 Finn Russell
9 Henry Pyrgos (c)

1 Rhys Gill
2 Matthew Rees (c)
3 Keiron Assiratti
4 Seb Davies
5 Damian Welch
6 Josh Turnbull
7 Josh Navidi
8 Nick Williams

1 Jamie Bhatti
2 George Turner
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Tim Swinson
5 Scott Cummings
6 Matt Fagerson
7 Callum Gibbins
8 Adam Ashe

16 Kirby Myhill
17 Brad Thyer
18 Dillon Lewis
19 George Earle
20 Macauley Cook
21 Tomos Williams
22 Jarrod Evans
23 Matthew Morgan

16 Pat MacArthur
17 Alex Allan
18 D’arcy Rae
19 Brian Alainu’uese
20 Chris Fusaro
21 George Horne
22 Peter Horne
23 Niko Matawalu

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

Glasgow Greetings:
First appearance of the season for British and Irish Lion Tommy Seymour. Alex Allan, Chris Fusaro, George Horne and Niko Matawalu will also take their 2017/18 bow if they come off the bench. Niko will be making his ‘second’ debut for the club 12 days short of 5 years since his very first Warriors appearance against Zebre at Scotstoun.

Matchday Milestones:
The latest addition to the ranks of the Warrior Centurions will be Tim Swinson. After joining up from Newcastle Falcons, Tim made his debut against Connacht on the 22nd of September 2012. Coincidentally his first ever away game for Glasgow (his 3rd overall) was also at the Arms Park against Cardiff Blues.

Warriors One to Watch:
After an injury disrupted season and a half Adam Ashe is getting back to his best. DJ Adam was of course the precocious talent who won his first Test cap before he had even started a game for Glasgow! His form now is reminiscent of the start of the 2015/16 season when he responded to missing out on selection for the Rugby World Cup by dominating the Warriors’ back row. He averaged 20 carries and 12.5 tackles per 80 minutes through the first 5 rounds of the Pro 12 during that campaign.

This is a relentless standard of work that requires not only an elite fitness level but a focused mental approach and a willingness to keep pushing on for the team. If Adam puts in these sorts of performances consistently he will be forcing his way back into the Scotland fold before long.

Opponent Stat Watch – on the other side of things look out for Cardiff Blues’ Rey Lee-Lo. With 35 touches across the first 2 rounds it’s clear the Welsh side like to put the ball in his hands a lot to see if he can make things happen for them. The Warriors midfield and back row will have to be on their guard when Lee-Lo goes wandering, looking for gaps.

The Cardiff Blues v Glasgow fixture in the Pro 12 era

  • Regular season:
    • 5 wins, 1 loss
    • 2 Try BPs, 1 Losing BP
    • 23 points out of a possible 30 (77%)
  • Until last season’s defeat the Warriors had won 5 in a row at the Arms Park – their longest winning streak at any away Pro 12 venue that is not in Italy.

Last season’s match-up:

8
Points scored in the second half – the lowest for any game involving Glasgow last season. The game was rather bizarrely split before and after half-time as the opening period saw more points racked up than in all bar 2 of the Warriors’ other games. The extra fitness required to play on artificial turf is something that is often alluded to (although hard data is difficult to find) and 10-15% more ball in play time is a stat that has been bandied about.

That being the case the 2 sides may have blown themselves out somewhat in a breathless, non-stop first 40. Who can last the full 80 best might be very significant on Saturday and Dave Rennie’s men can already look back on strong second halves against Connacht and Ospreys so far this season.

5
Penalties conceded by Cardiff. Even allowing for the ref being George Clancy the discipline from the home team was excellent, restricting Glasgow’s opportunities to get easy territory or points. The Blues haven’t been as parsimonious with the penalties so far this season, averaging 10 per game in the first couple of rounds of the Pro 14.

6 of their penalties have been conceded by props. Kieron Assiratti is a huge talent (and in all likelihood a future Test cap) but the 20 year old has had his struggles filling in on the tighthead side of the scrum with Taufa’ao Filise injured. With Glasgow’s props averaging 4.5 offences across the opening 2 fixtures there could be a lot more penalties flying about this time at the Arms Park.

5
Carries by Tommy Seymour. After 6 tries in the first 2 rounds of the season Tennessee Tam was starved of ball in Cardiff and unable to influence the game. The 2017 Lion has always tended to make flying starts to the season so Glasgow will be keen to take advantage of the attacking talent at their disposal on the wings.

There’s no use just shovelling ball out wide and hoping for the best and it will need the pack to continue their efficient work at the breakdown to provide the quick ball for Ali Price and Finn Russell to release the Warriors’ strike runners.

The 2 Joshes (Navidi and Turnbull) are the workhorses of the Blues’ pack with 53 tackles between them this season. If the Glasgow forwards can tie these players in at the breakdown the Cardiff defensive line will be that much weaker for the Warriors’ backs to try and exploit.

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

Officials:
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU, 7th competition game)
AR1: George Clancy (IRFU)
AR2: Mike English (WRU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

Mr. Murphy’s record in Warriors’ fixtures over the past 4 seasons:

Matches – 1 (118 for all refs)
Average penalty count – 12.0 (19.1 all refs)
Average penalties for Glasgow – 5.0 (9.6 all refs)
Average penalties against Glasgow – 7.0 (9.5 all refs)
Yellow cards – (1.0 per game all refs)

In only his second ever Pro 12 match as the man in the middle Mr. Murphy was surprisingly circumspect with the whistle when Glasgow travelled to take on the Ospreys. By contrast the other rookie refs who took charge of Warriors games last season (Elia Rizzo, Dan Jones, Mike Adamson) averaged 17.3 penalties and dished out 3 yellow cards. The former Connacht man has been fast tracked since his retirement from playing  at the end of 2014 and it’s interesting to see him getting exposure as the referee with the experienced George Clancy as his assistant.

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