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

KO 1.00 at Sold Out Scotstoun Stadium, Saturday 20th January
Live on BT Sport 3

There have been 78 games played at Scotstoun since the Warriors made it their permanent home back in 2012. This one has a little added significance in terms of the crowd numbers though – what should be the 13th consecutive 7,351 sell out will take attendance over the half a million mark (501,182 to be precise). It’s a big number and one that illustrates how far Glasgow have come in the last 5½ years. Finding a way to continue growing must be the most pressing issue for Nathan Bombrys and his team.

On the pitch the Warriors are much changed from their previous encounter in Pool 3 with Exeter. At Sandy Park, Glasgow were able to call on almost their entire first choice pack but 5 of those men are missing through injury this time out. Conversely the 5 changes in the backs means Dave Rennie names his strongest possible selection in this area (with the exception of Ali Price).

By contrast Exeter’s XV only shows 2 changes from the group that started the match in Round 1. Adding Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dave Ewers means the side from Devon should be even stronger in the pack on this occasion. The match looks like it will come down to who can execute their gameplan most effectively. If the visitors turn it into an arm wrestle in the forwards they should have a significant advantage. Glasgow will have to take chances, run their opponents off their feet and win it out wide.

Champions Cup stats:

  • Glasgow have taken on 8 English sides at home in the European Cup. Exeter are one of only 2 teams (the other being Gloucester) not to take advantage of the legendary west coast hospitality and come away with at least 1 win. Hopefully the Warriors are not in a generous mood on Saturday.
  • This will be the 20th Champions Cup match played at Scotstoun. Glasgow’s record at the venue is currently won 9, lost 10.
  • Defeat would be the 7th in a row in the tournament for the Warriors – which would match a sequence they have suffered twice before. The club’s worst run in the European Cup took in 13 consecutive losses between 2003 and 2006.

GLASGOW
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Huw Jones
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Leonardo Sarto
10 Finn Russell
9 George Horne
HEAD-TO-HEAD
ADV Glasgow
EVEN
EVEN
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Exeter
EXETER
15 Phil Dollman
14 Lachie Turner
13 Henry Slade
12 Ian Whitten
11 Olly Woodburn
10 Gareth Steenson (c)
9 Nic White

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

ADV Exeter
ADV Exeter
EVEN
ADV Exeter
ADV Glasgow
ADV Exeter
ADV Exeter
EVEN

1 Ben Moon
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Harry Williams
4 Mitch Lees
5 Jonny Hill
6 Dave Ewers
7 Don Armand
8 Sam Simmonds

16 Grant Stewart
17 Alex Allan
18 D’arcy Rae
19 Greg Peterson
20 Chris Fusaro
21 Ali Price
22 Peter Horne
23 Lee Jones

ADV Exeter
EVEN
ADV Exeter
ADV Glasgow
ADV Exeter
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow

16 Elvis Taione
17 Moray Low
18 Tomas Francis
19 Toby Salmon
20 Matt Kvesic
21 Will Chudley
22 Joe Simmonds
23 Tom Hendrickson

Starting XV stats:

BACKS
16   Champions Cup tries   13
125   Champions Cup appearances   142
25.9   Average age   27.7
6   Capped players   4

FORWARDS
877kg   Pack weights   921kg
87   Champions Cup appearances   104
24.8   Average age   26.5
6   Capped players   4

Glasgow Greetings:
Saturday’s game will feature George Horne’s first European start and there will be a home debut for Grant Stewart when he comes off the bench.

Once A Warrior:
It’s been a while since OTOTM has had to dust off this section but Scotstoun will welcome back not just any former Glasgow player but a Warrior Centurion in the (very large) form of Moray Low.

Moray made his debut for the club on 11th November 2006 against Leinster and played his last game (coincidentally against the same opponents) in the PRO12 Grand Final nearly 8 years later on 31st May 2014. In between he notched up 150 appearances and is still in the top 10 all-time (currently 8th) for matches played for Glasgow.

Matchday Milestones:
Running out at number 8, Adam Ashe will make his 50th appearance for the Warriors. In what is becoming a weekly Bob Harley watch the Ginger Ninja will play for Glasgow for the 175th time and is now only 2 short of Graeme Morrison’s record number of matches for the club.

Warriors One to Watch:
Glasgow’s stand off Finn Russell has had a pretty remarkable rise in the game. It’s less than 4 years since he made his first start in the 10 shirt for the Warriors. Within 9 months of that fixture he was the undisputed number 1 pick for both club and country. The mercurial fly half will tackle the next stage of his career at Racing 92 but for now he will want to end his time in Glasgow with performances that showcase the very best of what he can do.

This season there has been some criticism that the Warriors have been trying to play too much rugby and in the wrong places of the field in a style that’s even more helter skelter than under Gregor Townsend. Finn’s on field actions have actually been pretty similar to the last campaign though. In 2016/17 he kicked 18% of the time, passed 61% and ran 21%. This season the split is 19% / 64% / 17%. It will be interesting to see as the season starts to ramp up towards the 6 Nations, and following that to the playoffs, if he starts to take on more responsibility himself and those run numbers begin creeping up again.

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

    • 12 wins (10 at home, 2 away)
    • 25 losses (7 at home, 18 away)

Most recent meeting at Scotstoun:
20/10/13 Scotstoun Report

Glasgow Warriors 20
T: Tim Swinson, Tyrone Holmes
C: Ruaridh Jackson (2)
P: Ruaridh Jackson (2)
Exeter 16
T: Dave Ewers
C: Henry Slade
P: Gareth Steenson (3)

Only 3 players return from the Glasgow 23 on that day – Tommy Seymour, Jonny Gray and Rob Harley (although there are another 6 who played in that game who are still in the Warriors’ wider squad this season).

Nearly half the Exeter starting XV have previous experience of Scotstoun as they call on 7 players who featured in that match – Dollman, Slade, Whitten, Steenson, Moon, Ewers and Armand.

Key stats from Round 1:
The Good
23: defenders beaten by Glasgow. They forced Exeter down to a tackle completion rate of just 78% as they managed to put the Premiership champions’ defence under pressure. If Glasgow had been able to win a bit more ball and sustain that success going forward the game might have turned out differently…The nature of Exeter’s game means possession will be at a premium though and the Warriors have to be efficient and not turn over the ball on early phases.

The Bad
12: penalty count against Glasgow. The Exeter power play thrives on being able to get down into the 22 and then turn the screw with repeated drives. One of the easiest ways for them to do that is from penalties anywhere up to their own 10 metre line. It’s far from simple when under such sustained pressure but the home side have to avoid giving up an easy 30/40/50 metres but instead make Exeter work for every blade of (artificial) grass.

The Ugly
23: percentage territory for Glasgow in the first half. Possession was similarly skewed in the English side’s favour with the Warriors only on the ball 31% of the time. That endless grind of never really breaking out of their own half and constantly defending must have taken its toll on Glasgow. When it got to those closing minutes, where they had been so strong in the early part of the season, there just weren’t the same energy levels remaining to pull something out of the bag.

This time out Dave Rennie’s men have to know that fitness levels alone aren’t going to be enough even if they manage to stay in the game. There has to be more control of possession and territory from minute one if they are to have a chance of breaking their duck in this season’s Champions Cup.

Bonus stat:
It’s one OTOTM alluded to last week with Leinster but it’s even more relevant for Exeter. The ratio of passes to runs for the 2 teams was completely different and illustrates that these sides are playing diverging styles of rugby.

Glasgow – 143 passes, 115 carries, 1.24 passes per carry
Exeter – 105 passes, 129 carries, 0.81 passes per carry

What this means is way more pick and goes for Exeter, direct confrontation from the forwards. To make that work requires an extremely well-drilled and powerful pack who can get over the gain line even when confronted by multiple defenders.

This is not something the Warriors often come up against. None of the sides in the PRO14 come anywhere close to making fewer passes than carries. Leinster on European duty can go to that style of play if required but they will tend to mix it up a little more. It’s something Glasgow will need to adapt to quickly on Saturday if they want to contain their guests.

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

Officials:
Referee: Romain Poite (Fra, 68th competition game)
AR1: Cyril Lafon (Fra)
AR2: Vincent Blasco Baque (Fra)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ire)

M. Poite’s record in Warriors’ fixtures over the previous 4 seasons:

Matches – 2 (118 for all refs)
Average penalty count – 19.5 (19.1 all refs)
Average penalties for Glasgow – 11.5 (9.6 all refs)
Average penalties against Glasgow – 8.0 (9.5 all refs)
Yellow cards – 2 in total (1.0 per game all refs)

M. Poite is one of the most experienced referees in Europe. Only 4 officials (Owens, Rolland, Lewis and Clancy) have taken charge of more European Cup matches. From Glasgow’s point of view it’s 2 years since they experienced what the French whistler brings to the table. That last game against Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens saw the Warriors very nearly turn winning the penalty count into a victory before a late yellow card for Tim Swinson contributed to an even later collapse that let the Saints go marching in (sorry…)

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