Friday, January 12, 2018

Preview : Leinster v Glasgow Warriors

We have reached arguably the best time of year for rugby number nerds like myself - that two-week period during which the composition of the Rugby Champions Cup 'top eight' changes more often than Donald Trump's train of thought.

Here's how it stands going into Sunday on Round 5...

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* - still to play on Sunday

First, a quick refresher on how it all works.  Five pools of four teams each, with the winners of each pool joined by the three best runners up in the quarterfinals.  For the seedings you see above the teams are ranked first within their pool and then against teams from the other pools in the same position.  For that all-important home quarterfinal, you not only must win your pool but you must also have a record better than at least one other pool winner.

Next, a look at the task that has faced Leinster in our Pool Three.  Nobody is calling it a 'Pool of Death' anymore but I feel the need to point out that EACH of our opponents in the pool currently has the best record in their domestic league, yet it is Leinster that has won four out of four so far.

Yet even with that record which is only just bettered by our old friends Clérmont, we still have some work to do to clinch the pool even before we start calculating home quarterfinals, and this is mostly down to Montpellier's ability to squirrel away bonus points in each of their four matches to date.

[UPDATE SUNDAY MORNING - The results from Friday and Saturday seem to have been absolutely perfect for Leinster.  Now we 'just' need one point against Glasgow to clinch top spot in the pool, while a bonus point victory will guarantee a home quarterfinal]

And finally we come to Sunday's encounter.  The Scots have been talking up a good game in the press during the week, saying how they aim to be competitive and everything, but it's hard to argue that they have anything really to gain by giving 100% on Sunday what with top spot in Conference A within their grasp not to mention Scotland being better poised for a Six Nations challenge than for a long time.

But as always we can only pay mind to our side of the equation, and it has to be said this is a matchday squad which is worthy of more than a pesky Sunday lunchtime kickoff time.  The name that leaps off the page is Isa Nacewa, not just because he returns as skipper, but also that he returns to the number 12 jersey he wore so well at the start of the season.  Losing Ringrose against Ulster was a blow for both Leinster and Ireland, but for now we have a more than capable replacement with Robbie able to switch over one spot in the line.

Another notable name on the team sheet is James Lowe, finally making his European debut, and this could be a perfect opportunity for him to let the rest of the continent know just what a good acquisition he has been for Leinster.  And in many ways you could make a case for this being our 'in-form' back three right now, with both Larmour and McFadden getting amongst the tries over the Christmas period.

In the pack we have Jordi Murphy possibly making his last European appearance for us at the RDS, and he has plenty of ability around him.  As often is the case for us, once we can avoid the wobbles in the lineout, you can't have anything but confidence in this group of forwards, with a not too shabby bench either.

So all in all it's hard not to be positive about this match, and the bookies agree with a whopping 20 point margin predicted.  As ever I'm wary of this confidence, so I'll tone it down to 13-15 as my official forecast, but the fact is with this group of players plus the Warriors distractions we really should be using this match to make a statement to the rest of the competition that we are ready to compete at the business end once more.   We really should be aiming to at very least take the try bonus whatever the winning margin.

Meanwhile the A team are in a similar boat to the senior side in that they lead their pool by 5 points against the team they face in the final round, Doncaster Knights in this case.  I have to assume their task in Pontypridd against the Cardiff Blues 'Premiership Select' should be relatively simple, though apart from a virtual 'Dad's army' of a second road it's a very young squad we're sending.  [UPDATE : It turned out to be yet another bonus point win for Leinster A, which guarantees a home quarterfinal]

Here's to another pair of Leinster victories to celebrate this weekend, and best wishes to the other provinces as well; very possible that we can have all four still involved in the knockout stages across the two competitions.  Hope to see you at the RDS.  JLP


Glasgow: 15. Ruaridh Jackson 14. Lee Jones 13. Huw Jones 12. Nick Grigg 11. Niko Matawalu 10. Peter Horne 9. Ali Price
1. Jamie Bhatti 2. George Turner 3. Siua Halanukonuka 4. Rob Harley CAPTAIN 5. Greg Peterson 6. Matt Fagerson 7. Matt Smith 8. Adam Ashe
Replacements : 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.

Rugby Champions Cup 2017/18 - Round 5
Sunday, January 14, 2018
KO 1pm
RDS Arena

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Ita)
AR1: Matteo Liperini (Ita)
AR2: Simone Boaretto (Ita)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Ita)

Sky Sports Action: 12:45pm

Leinster ‘A’ v Cardiff Blues Prem Select : 15. Ciarán Frawley 14. Jack Kelly 13. Gavin Mullin 12. Conor O'Brien 11. Tommy O'Brien 10. Cathal Marsh CAPTAIN 9. Charlie Rock
1. Peter Dooley 2. Ronan Kelleher 3. Jack Aungier 4. Mick Kearney 5. Ian Nagle 6. Josh Murphy 7. Max Kearney 8. Peadar Timmins
Replacements 16. Sean McNulty 17. Adam Coyle 18. Óisín Heffernan 19. Óisín Dowling 20. Ronan Foley 21. Hugh O'Sullivan 22. Michael Silvester.

British & Irish Cup 2017/18 Round 5
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Sardis Road
Kickoff 2:30pm


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019