Need to Know: Leinster v Glasgow Warriors, Champions Cup match preview 2017/18

KO 1.00 at the RDS Arena, Sunday 14th January 2018
Live on Sky Sports Action

This week’s Glasgow Warriors’ selection meeting would have been done and dusted in record time. Of the 41 man Champions Cup squad 14 are out injured. Academy hooker Grant Stewart was added but excluding an entire spare front row (Kebble, Malcolm and Nicol) Dave Rennie and co. only had to select 23 from 25 players. Finn Russell and Jonny Gray are the lucky 2 rested as Glasgow head into the game with 4 scrum halves in their squad…

Champions Cup stats:

  • The Warriors have only won 1 Champions Cup match away to an Irish side – 20 years ago they beat Ulster at Ravenhill in Glasgow’s very first game in the tournament.
  • Historically Round 5 has been the Warriors’ best in the tournament with a 50% winning percentage.
  • This will be Glasgow’s 4th visit to Dublin for European action (3rd at the RDS with one trip to Donnybrook). The average margin of defeat in those previous games is a rather intimidating 25 points.
  • Leinster’s Devin Toner has more previous Champions Cup appearances (59) than the entire Warriors’ pack combined (58).

LEINSTER
15 Jordan Larmour
14 Fergus McFadden
13 Robbie Henshaw
12 Isa Nacewa (c)
11 James Lowe
10 Jonny Sexton
9 Luke McGrath

.

GLASGOW
15 Ruaridh Jackson
14 Lee Jones
13 Huw Jones
12 Nick Grigg
11 Niko Matawalu
10 Peter Horne
9 Ali Price

1 Jack McGrath
2 Sean Cronin
3 Tadhg Furlong
4 Devin Toner
5 Scott Fardy
6 Jordi Murphy
7 Josh van der Flier
8 Jack Conan

.


1 Jamie Bhatti
2 George Turner
3 Siua Halanukonuka
4 Robert Harley (c)
5 Greg Peterson
6 Matt Fagerson
7 Matt Smith
8 Adam Ashe

16 Brian Byrne
17 Cian Healy
18 Andrew Porter
19 James Ryan
20 Dan Leavy
21 Nick McCarthy
22 Ross Byrne
23 Rob Kearney

.


16 Grant Stewart
17 Alex Allan
18 D’arcy Rae
19 Kiran McDonald
20 Chris Fusaro
21 George Horne
22 Brandon Thomson
23 Henry Pyrgos

Starting XV stats:

BACKS
37   Champions Cup tries   21
193   Champions Cup appearances   130
27.9   Average age   27.2
5   Capped players   7
5
   Irish / Scottish qualified   6

FORWARDS
891kg   Pack weight   880kg
207   Champions Cup appearances   58
28.4   Average age   25.1
8   Capped players   6
7
   Irish / Scottish qualified   6

Glasgow Greetings:
Sunday could see the 12th Warriors’ debutant of the season in the shape of Grant Stewart – who would be the 6th Academy player to feature in 2017/18. As seems to be the fashion for hookers these days Grant has shown he is equally comfortable playing in the back row, often turning out at openside for Glasgow Hawks in the BT Premiership. Brandon Thomson will make his first Champions Cup appearance if he comes off the bench.

Matchday Milestones:
Rob Harley
continues to power through the appearances as he chases down Graeme Morrison’s record of 177 games for Glasgow. This week will see Rob making his 150th start for the club – a feat only achieved by a couple of other Warriors’ legends – the aforementioned Morrison (156) and The Captain himself, Al Kellock (152).

Warriors One to Watch:
Peter Horne
is a player who can fly under the radar somewhat but he’s one of the beating hearts of the club on and off the pitch. Pete is the longest serving player among the backs having made his debut back in March 2009. On that day he came off the bench at Ravenhill, replacing Jose Maria Nunez Piossek and uniting with Ruaridh Jackson in a centre pairing that certainly wasn’t designed for crash ball tactics!

In the last couple of seasons Pete has been deployed more often at stand off than his usual inside centre berth (14 starts at 10 versus 9 starts at 12). Against Leinster he’ll be contending with a home defence that will be in his face from minute one. If Glasgow are to have any chance of pulling off an upset victory then Horne the Elder’s success dealing with that pressure and putting the team in the right areas of the pitch will be crucial.

Glasgow’s Track Record…
…against Irish sides in the pool stages of the European Cup:

    • 3 wins (2 at home, 1 away)
    • 8 losses (4 at home, 4 away)

Key stats from Round 2:
The Good
34: tackles made by the second row pairing of Jonny Gray and Tim Swinson – with none missed. That’s the kind of consistency the entire pack will need to aspire to if they are to contain the Leinster eight this time around.

The Bad
40: number of passes made by Finn Russell. It maybe seems like an odd stat to pick out as a negative but it illustrates how a combination of Glasgow inaccuracy in attack and Leinster intensity in defence made the Warriors’ life very difficult indeed going forward. In all Finn had 50 touches of the ball – with those kind of numbers Glasgow would expect to be picking teams apart but it was very much a case of quantity over quality.

By contrast Jonny Sexton and Ross Byrne only made 13 passes from stand off for Leinster – but working behind an advancing pack that was more than enough for them to run the show and find the 4 tries they needed for the Bonus Point win.

The Ugly
40: minutes on the clock when Leinster scored their second try. The raw numbers don’t actually paint that bad a picture for Glasgow, there are no stats that really jump out and say this is where the game was lost. Those championship minutes just before half-time really did swing momentum in favour of the visitors though.

The game was tied at 10-10 and there were only a couple of minutes left in the opening period when the Warriors won a penalty close to half-way. Instead of Glasgow edging in front at the interval the whistle blew with Leinster 17-10 ahead. So how did things switch around so quickly?

  • Decision making:
    Instead of going to the corner and a chance for a try (and running the clock right down to half-time) Glasgow opted for a speculative shot at goal – and missed.
  • Handling errors:
    Jonny Sexton sent the subsequent drop-out up towards the Warriors’ half. With literally seconds left in the first 40 minutes the home team knocked the ball on from first phase possession.
  • The scrum:
    Leinster had an advantage at the setpiece all afternoon but the impending break seemed to concentrate their minds for one concerted effort (while Glasgow seemed to almost switch off a little) and the most powerful drive of the day won a penalty to keep the play alive.
  • Defending the maul:
    In contrast to Glasgow the visitors opted to go down the line. Sexton’s kick wasn’t perfect but it didn’t matter as the Leinster maul rumbled and rolled in from the lineout with the Warriors’ pack seemingly powerless to stop its progress.

A microcosm of negative side of this season then with some of the key issues that Glasgow have faced in this campaign as they seek to step up a level – particularly in Europe. The scrum has improved since October, as has the maul defence (although both will be tested as never before on Sunday afternoon). Decision-making still seems to be a work in progress, especially in the absence of some key leaders.

It’s handling errors that have really held the team back at times though, snuffing out attacks and handing the opposition good field position. If the Warriors can protect the ball better without losing their attacking flair then they will at least be able to consistently challenge a very good Leinster defence.

Home and Away:
Leinster last 6 Champions Cup pool matches (H) – W W W W W W
Glasgow last 6 Champions Cup pool matches (A) – L L W W L L

Officials:
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Ita, 17th competition game)
AR1: Matteo Lipperini (Ita)
AR2: Simone Baoretto (Ita)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Ita)

Sig. Mitrea’s record in Warriors’ fixtures over the previous 4 seasons:

Matches – 6 (118 for all refs)
Average penalty count – 22.5 (19.1 all refs)
Average penalties for Glasgow – 9.0 (9.6 all refs)
Average penalties against Glasgow – 13.5 (9.5 all refs)
Yellow cards – 7 in total (1.0 per game all refs)

Glasgow have struggled to get on Sig. Mitrea’s good side in recent years. Not only have they conceded 50% more penalties than their opponents they’ve also picked up 6 of the 7 yellow cards the Italian whistler has brandished in these games. Given the threadbare nature of Sunday’s squad (only 3 first choice players in the starting XV) the Warriors simply cannot afford to play short-handed at any stage.

 

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