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

KO 7.35 at Sold Out Scotstoun Stadium, Friday 22nd September
Live on BBC 2 Scotland

Since blitzing their way to the Pro 12 trophy at the Kingspan Stadium in 2015 Glasgow have only managed one win in six attempts against Munster. Most recently the 2016/17 season saw the Warriors draw a blank across four fixtures – although three of those games were won by an average of just two points. Prior to that Glasgow had emerged victorious in four out of six matches – they’ll be hoping to kick off a streak more like that one by keeping their Pro 14 winning run going on Friday night.

Teams

GLASGOW WARRIORS
15 Ruaridh Jackson
14 Lee Jones
13 Nick Grigg
12 Peter Horne
11 Rory Hughes
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price
MUNSTER
15 Andrew Conway
14 Darren Sweetnam
13 Chris Farrell
12 Rory Scannell
11 Alexander Wootton
10 Tyler Bleyendaal (c)
9 Duncan Williams

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

1 Liam O’Connor
2 Rhys Marshall
3 Stephen Archer
4 Jean Kleyn
5 Billy Holland
6 Sean O’Connor
7 Tommy O’Donnell
8 Jack O’Donoghue

16 Pat MacArthur
17 Alex Allan
18 D’arcy Rae
19 Brian Alainu’uese
20 Robert Harley
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Sam Johnson
23 Leonardo Sarto

16 Niall Scannell
17 Dave Kilcoyne
18 John Ryan
19 Fineen Wycherley
20 Robin Copeland
21 James Hart
22 Jaco Taute
23 Simon Zebo

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

Glasgow Greetings:
When he comes off the bench Rob Harley will be making his first appearance of the season. He will be the 35th player used so far by Dave Rennie (in competitive matches).

Matchday Milestones:
As he celebrates a decade since his debut for the Warriors, Pat MacArthur will play his 157th game for the club. That brings him level with Al Kellock in third place all-time for appearances and behind only Rob Harley and Graeme Morrison.

Warriors One to Watch:
Almost every back row needs that player who can do a little bit of everything, the guy who adapts his game depending on who he is playing alongside and what their strengths / specialities are. For a number of seasons now Ryan Wilson has provided that flexibility. Whether it’s been as the breakdown specialist in the Harley / Wilson / Strauss unit; playing as a traditional ball-handling 8; or just getting through the dirty work on the blindside while others get the glory; Ryan has approached it all with the same high work rate and team first mentality.

He’s demonstrated this level of effort time and time again in defence (exemplified by 6 tackles in less than 90 seconds for Scotland). Ryan is also a big time contributor at the setpiece – as an excellent operator at the tail of the lineout – and as part of the Warriors’ high octane, keep the ball moving gameplan – he and Jonny Gray were the only Glasgow forwards to throw over 100 passes last season. He will lead from the front on Friday, setting the example for his teammates and will undoubtedly relish the challenge laid down by Munster.

Opponent Stat Watch – there’s no question there will be a big emphasis on overpowering physicality from Munster in attack and defence. The visitors’ back 3 have demonstrated the value of elusiveness and pace in the early part of this season though. Alexander Wootton and Andrew Conway have been the catalysts, combining for over 500 metres with ball in hand, resulting from 6 clean breaks and 13 broken tackles. With 6 tries between them they present two very good reasons for Glasgow not to invite counter attacks with loose tactical kicking.

The Glasgow v Munster fixture in the Pro 12 era

  • Regular season:
    • 3 wins and 3 losses
    • 2 Try BPs and 2 Losing BPs
    • 16 points out of a possible 30 (53%)
  • Playoffs – 2 wins
  • Munster are one of only two sides who have won at least three times (twice in the league, once in the Champions Cup) on their visits to Scotstoun since the Warriors returned there in 2012. (Scarlets are the other team with 3 victories under their belts).

Last season’s match-up:

0.58
Metres made per carry by the Warriors’ starting pack. The forwards got through plenty of work (60 carries) but for very little return (35m in total). This was the lowest of the season and one of only three occasions when the average per run was less than 1m. The 2 other occasions were Munster away (0.88m per carry) and, more surprisingly, Edinburgh at home (0.89m per carry). Even with a backline replete with strike runners like Glasgow’s the foundation in attack is still front foot ball from the forwards – a big ask against a brutally physical Munster defence.

71
Combined number of kicks from hand by the teams (28 by Glasgow; 43 by Munster). This was by some distance the most in any Warriors game in 2016/17 – 30% more than the next highest (against Ospreys). There were only 18 lineouts (below the season average of 23) so 75% of these kicks were staying infield and were mainly about building pressure.

Munster were more than comfortable with handing Glasgow the ball and trusting their chase to contain (or even win the ball from) the Warriors’ back 3. The men from Limerick have shown a bit more willingness to cut loose this season – although mainly against weaker opposition. They kicked 39 times away to the Ospreys last week and expect them to put the ball in the air regularly on Friday night.

8
Turnovers conceded by Munster – the fewest by any of Glasgow’s opponents until the final two fixtures of the season. There was a focus from the visitors on being pragmatic about when to hold onto possession, picking and choosing the most promising moments; kicking the ball away when they were pinned back or under pressure. That left the Warriors with few opportunities to try and win possession or force errors. Allied to efficient handling and tightly controlled rucking from the visitors this style of play means a test for Glasgow’s defensive systems when Munster do decide to go through the phases.

Home and Away:
Glasgow last 6 in Pro 14 (H) – W W W L W
Munster last 6 in Pro 14 (A) – W W W W W W

Munster are on a 9 match winning streak in regular season fixtures away from home. Last season they won every Pro 12 match on their travels bar their trip to Leinster – coincidentally where they came unstuck in the Grand Final against Scarlets…

Officials:
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 154th competition game)
AR1: Keith Allen (SRU)
AR2: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)

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

Matches – 11 (118 for all refs)
Average penalty count – 15.1 (19.1 all refs)
Average penalties for Glasgow – 6.6 (9.6 all refs)
Average penalties against Glasgow – 8.5 (9.5 all refs)
Yellow cards – 4 (2 of them for Glasgow)

It’s a Glasgow and Munster game so it must be Mr. Owens refereeing. The Welsh whistler will be taking charge of this fixture for the 6th time in 11 meetings between the two sides in the Pro 12/14. His last outing was more than 11,000 miles away at North Harbour Stadium as the man in charge when New Zealand thumped South Africa 57-0. Hopefully he is over his jetlag as he tackles his first Pro 14 match of the season.

Mr. Owens is almost certainly the most easy-going official Glasgow will come across in the league – at least in terms of being the least likely to resort to penalties or cards. He will manage the game to try and keep play flowing as much as possible. That puts more of an onus on the players to be positive – in particular at the breakdown where there is the potential for things to get messy if the teams feel they can get away with spoiling their opponents’ possession.

 

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