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

KO 7.35 at Sold Out Scotstoun Stadium, Friday 3rd November
Live on BBC ALBA

Just 8 of the 30 players who started the clubs’ Champions Cup fixture less than 2 weeks ago return for this game – 6 for Glasgow and 2 for Leinster. Between them the teams will be missing at least 36 players to international duty and injuries.

This will be the third time in last six seasons this fixture will have fallen within a Test match window. The other three have taken place in early September – often before internationals have started their season. Finn Russell and Jonny Sexton may have gone head to head in Europe but they have never played against each other in the equivalent PRO12 fixture.

With further expansion on the horizon for the league one of the goals must surely be minimising the crossover with Test rugby. In the meantime the fixture schedulers should really be focused on ensuring marquee games like this are played when the clubs have their star players available.

 

Teams

GLASGOW WARRIORS
15 Ruaridh Jackson
14 Lelia Masaga
13 Nick Grigg
12 Sam Johnson
11 Niko Matawalu
10 Peter Horne
9 George Horne
LEINSTER
15 Jordan Larmour
14 Adam Byrne
13 Rory O’Loughlin
12 Conor O’Brien
11 Dave Kearney
10 Ross Byrne
9 Jamison Gibson-Park

1 Jamie Bhatti
2 George Turner
3 D’arcy Rae
4 Tim Swinson
5 Scott Cummings
6 Rob Harley
7 Callum Gibbins (c)
8 Matt Fagerson

1 Ed Byrne
2 Sean Cronin
3 Michael Bent
4 Ross Molony (c)
5 Mick Kearney
6 Scott Fardy
7 Jordi Murphy
8 Max Deegan

16 Pat MacArthur
17 Alex Allan
18 Adam Nicol
19 Lewis Wynne
20 Matt Smith
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Alex Dunbar
23 Leonardo Sarto

16 Richardt Strauss
17 Peter Dooley
18 Andrew Porter
19 Josh Murphy
20 Dan Leavy
21 Nick McCarthy
22 Cathal Marsh
23 Hugo Keenan

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

 

Matchday Milestones:
This will be the 125th Warriors’ appearance of Peter Horne’s career – a solid 119 ahead of little brother George who starts alongside him in the half backs for the first time (although they did manage 14 minutes in tandem at 9 and 10 in last season’s match against Connacht). Pat MacArthur will be playing his 125th PRO12 / PRO14 game.

Warriors One to Watch:
Of Sam Johnson’s 13 appearances for Glasgow last year 10 of them came in the first half of the campaign. Having been selected for 8 of the Warriors’ 10 games so far in 2017/18 he will be keen to maintain his involvement into the back end of the season. Key to that is taking opportunities like Friday night’s game to lead the midfield in both attack and defence.

The Australian centre plays the game as a sort of hybrid between Peter Horne and Alex Dunbar. Sam had a similar number of carries as Alex but threw more than twice as many passes. His ratio of passes to carries in last season’s game was more in line with a distributing 12 like Pete but he can also hit the line hard in the direct running style of a Dunbar.

The big difference between Johnson and Horne is that the former has no kicking game to speak of (he only kicked the ball twice in the whole of last season) which will make Ruaridh Jackson’s interventions from full back even more important. With running threats either side of him Sam should hopefully find the space to make the kind of breaks that have been a regular part of his game. It’s essential that these are finished off though with Glasgow having proved to be somewhat profligate this season after doing the hard part of breaching the defensive line…

Opponent stat watch – with Jack Conan and Rhys Ruddock missing workhorse duties in the Leinster pack will fall to Scott Fardy. The Australian test veteran will revert to the back row from lock but it will make little difference to his approach to the game which is all about physical impact. With 27 carries and 41 tackles so far this season he will be a threat on both sides of the ball to the Warriors’ ambitions to get control up front.

The Glasgow v Leinster fixture in the Pro 12 era:

  • 4 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss
  • 1 Try BP and 1 Losing BP
  • 20 points out of a possible 30 (67%)
  • For all that these sides serve up some quality attacking rugby there has been only one try bonus point in their six Pro 12 games in Glasgow.

Last season’s match-up:

0
Minutes played off the bench by Ali Price. Just 14 months ago the wee scrum half was uncapped and firmly behind Henry Pyrgos in the Glasgow pecking order. Fast forward to now and Ali will almost certainly be Gregor Townsend’s first choice for Scotland’s Autumn Tests – life moves pretty fast in pro rugby.

Even with the World Cup less then 2 years away and only one PRO14 start under his belt there is still time for Friday night’s number 9 George Horne to make his mark and push for inclusion in the national squad for the tournament in Japan.

97
Percentage of Glasgow’s rucks that ended successfully (85 out of 88). This is an area where the Warriors’ pack have been pretty efficient. They were only beaten in the head to head for this stat in 8 of their 29 matches last season.

It’s not simply about retaining possession though. The rucking has to be dynamic enough to tie in the opposition and the ball needs to be back in play quickly enough to allow the kind of high tempo attacking play the Warriors thrive on. When this works (eg Leicester home and away) Glasgow can be almost unplayable. When it doesn’t (eg Munster x4) it can be very difficult to get any kind of attacking pattern going.

36
Metres made with ball in hand by Stuart Hogg – his lowest return in any Pro 12 fixture last season. While Tommy Seymour was able to get into the game more frequently much of his best work came off turnover ball or first phase from set piece. The disciplined kicking (and chasing) game of Leinster is designed to contain and minimise counter-attacking opportunities, particularly for the opposition back 3. Can the Irish side’s backup half backs follow the game plan to the level required?

Home and Away:
Glasgow last 6 in PRO 12/14 (H) – W L W W W W
Leinster last 6 in PRO 12/14 (A) – W L W W L W

Officials:
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU, 4th competition game)
AR1: Sam Grove-White (SRU)
AR2: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
TMO: Jim Yuille (WRU)

Another Warriors’ virgin in the shape of Mr. Berry. He has yet to referee Leinster either so this should be a voyage of discovery for both sides…The South African official has averaged 22.3 penalties per game so far this season which is a fair bit above the league average of 19.5. He has only handed out 2 yellow cards though and it will be interesting to see if there is a significant difference in his Southern Hemisphere influenced approach – particularly around the breakdown.

A word of warning for the Horne brothers on their first start together – given Lloyd Linton’s difficulties distinguishing between the Shinglers last season Pete and George may want to decide on what their policy on taking the blame is…

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