Friday, November 29, 2019

Preview : Glasgow Warriors v Leinster


If you flip a coin eight times and it lands on heads every single time, that's still no guarantee it's going to land heads on the ninth try.  You could also say that a rugby team that's won it's opening eight matches of a season isn't guaranteed to win its ninth, but that would be for different reasons.

When it comes to the coin, you're talking sheer probability.  On every spin, there are only two options.  Yet with team sports, the options are far greater, and that sport being rugby probably makes them infinite.

And I'd say the biggest bit of evidence that suggests Leinster are close to 'coming a cropper' is the reaction of their own fans to each of the wins so far.  "Not a great performance, but...", "Could've done better, but...", "Won't win if we play like that in May, but..." has been the gist of the comments from a large section of realistic supporters, all grasping for caveats - many no doubt genuine, many no doubt worried about invoking the 'jinx clause' of the Superstition Charter.

To be fair, there has been an element in our performances so far that do make you wonder if we can keep the run going without something of an improvement.  It's mostly when we have the ball - that may sound a bit strange when you consider we're number one in the league for both most points AND tries scored, but a couple of times on our travels, like at Zebre and Lyon, we had to rely on our (also league leading) defence a little more than we may have hoped.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if there was a match that looked like it could give us a back-to-earth-bringing defeat, it could be a late November visit to Glasgow.  Especially when that match falls smack back in the middle of two sets of two European fixtures, and even more especially when the Warriors, last year's beaten finalists, are keen to put their own poor start to the season behind them.

You can't help but notice the long shadow of the upcoming and potentially pool-deciding back-to-back series with the Northampton Saints hanging over this matchday 23.  That is of course not meant to disrespect any of them, but they will know what I mean, except for Devin Toner, of course.  He is clearly the glue of experience meant to hold the starting XV together, even if Ross Molony is the one carrying the armband.  I reckon between them they will do just fine in that area.

Our most eye-catching line is that from 11 to 15.  All five will have different reasons to want to prove themselves but my attention is mostly drawn to the O'Briens in the centre; I have a feeling their work together could either make or break our evening in Scotstoun.

Then there's Jamison Gibson-Park.  Big Dev may not be the only one who will be thinking he has a decent shot at starting in Franklin's Gardens next Saturday lunchtime.  Luke McGrath hasn't quite found his form since returning from Japan while the newly-Irish-qualified Kiwi has been doing really well in blue while he was gone - this could be a real opportunity.

As for the pack, talking of opportunity, I'm sure both James Tracy and Ed Byrne will be keen to keep their names fresh in the minds of the coaching staff after being leapfrogged by Rónan Kelleher since the start of the season.  Of course the rapid rise was justified by his performances, but it will be interesting to see if it inspires a response from others, and let's not forget a certain Nugget waiting in the wings.

But as often is the case with Leinster these days, most attention will be on our back row.  It's like we use a one-arm bandit to select it for every match yet still come up with a jackpot every time.  Let's see if Messrs Murphy, Connors and Doris can support that particular metaphor.

I can't see us approaching this match in any other way than if it were a full European fixture, because that's what I would do if I were the Warriors.  They need this win to stay in touch with the top three in a Conference A where they surely thought they'd be near the top even at the "one-third" mark.

The bookies actually concur that our first defeat is on the cards, giving the home side a four-point advantage with their odds.  I'm going to go against them this time and reverse it, saying we can win by four ourselves, but only with a similar defensive structure to that we brought to Lyon PLUS a dose of offensive magic from the young lineup.  Ross Byrne has a decent understanding with his surname-sake Adam in the realm of crossfield kicks and it could be in areas like this where our chances can be found.

Here's to my forecast coming true! JLP

Glasgow : 15. Ruaridh Jackson 14. Tommy Seymour 13. Huw Jones 12. Sam Johnson 11. Niko Matawalu 10. Pete Horne 9. Ali Price
1. Oli Kebble 2. George Turner 3. D’arcy Rae 4. Tim Swinson 5. Jonny Gray 6. Rob Harley 7. Chris Fusaro 8. Ryan Wilson (C)
16. Grant Stewart 17. Aki Seiuli 18. Adam Nicol 19. Kiran McDonald 20. Adam Ashe 21. Nick Frisby 22. Stafford McDowall 23. Kyle Steyn.

Guinness Pro 14 2019/20 - Round 7
Saturday, November 30, 2019
KO 7:35pm
Scotstoun

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)
AR1: Mike Adamson (SRU)
AR2: Adam Jones (WRU)
TMO: John Mason (WRU)

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