Friday, June 03, 2022

Preview : Leinster v Glasgow Warriors




Only one direction to look and that's forward.

There's a trophy to be won and although three knockout victories are required instead of just the one last year, you can be pretty certain Leinster won't be lacking in motivation to get the job done.

Before I harp on the team selection though, a few thoughts on the announcement during the week that the South African clubs will be joining the "European" competitions as there has been a ton of opinion about it going around the twitter machine the past few days, not all of it "fully informed".

(Feel free to skip to the "BACKS" heading if you just want to read the preview)

I'll try to be quick - here's my response to some of the objections...

Long-distance travelling is bad for the environment - I am 100% in support of tackling climate change and there's no doubt fewer plane journeys helps. However in rugby's case, RSA is so isolated geographically that travel is the only way to get their clubs top tier opposition so realistically it's either HCC or Super Rugby for them, and I'd like to think that if it were Ireland in the same situation the other nations would also help us out.

Long-distance travelling is bad for fans - This is also a good point, however we should also consider the flip side of the coin where season ticket holders, many of whom can't afford the time and/or the money to travel to every away match even when it's in Europe, now get to see a higher quality of opposition including World Cup winners down at their favourite ground.

The Cheetahs didn't qualify - AFAIK it's only the Champions Cup where qualification is actually required. In the past teams like Calvisano and Enisei-STM have taken part in the Challenge Cup. Plus, anyone who follows rugby regularly will know how the Cheetahs got the thin end of the wedge to say the least after their involvement in the Pro14 which makes them a very special case and this seems to work for them.

What about development elsewhere in Europe? - We now have the Super Cup for clubs from places like Georgia and Romania; it has certainly had teething troubles what with COVID and the Russian clubs (rightly of course) taken out but it still for now looks like a sensible pathway to a top tier I really doubt they're even close to being ready for. Hopefully we will see them in the Challenge Cup before long.

Right - again sorry for straying off topic but I wanted to get that off my chest.  Now let's have a look at Leinster's lineup for their first match at the RDS since the end of February...

BACKS

Johnny Sexton being unavailable is unfortunate but does not surprise me, if there is even the slightest doubt over his fitness then this is probably the ideal time to give him a rest. In fact in some ways Ross Byrne playing at 10 might be the most representative of what Leinster need this weekend.

It wasn't his best cameo which naturally will make him determined to get back out there and remind us all what he can do, and with Jamison Gibson Park along side him we should have a plentiful supply of front foot ball.

That not enough creativity for you? How about Ciaran Frawley at 12 and Jimmy O'Brien at 15? This is very similar to the back line which got us to top spot on the URC table and it has while it might have a slightly different structure to the European lineup, it still has a great effectiveness, with the likes of JGP and Garry Ringrose doing no harm whatsoever.

Interesting to see Jordan Larmour back on the wing after his inspired display against Munster, no doubt he'll be keen to get his hands on the ball and I can see this 11-15 group lining up in multiple different ways.

FORWARDS

Despite losing Rónan Kelleher the pack is a lot closer to that which started last week, as we still get to field a front row that should be well able for the All Blacks in a few weeks' time. Maybe we were under pressure at scrum time a bit more than we'd like in recent times but it hasn't been a complete blow out as we have managed to fix some problems in-game when required too.

James Ryan gets the captain's role back and hopefully the swap among locks between Joe McCarthy and Ross Molony from last week's bench isn't seen as anything else but rotation. It will be good for Joe to get more game time under his belt and this will be a stern test against Messrs Harley & Gray.

in the back row, Doris switching to 8 allowing Baird in at 6 is an interesting tweak, we'll see if we get more involved at breakdown time as many experts over the past week have suggested we do. We could certainly do with a few more jackled penalties, that's for sure.

BENCH

We thought the Aviva might be our last chance to see the Nugget yet he's poised for an important cameo here and it has to be said this is quite the bench we have what with Healy, Molony, Conan, McGrath and Henshaw all ready to contribute in the final quarter. And every week I've said that our last minute XV has generally been as strong defensively, if not more so, than that for the first (last Saturday very much included in that btw) although hopefully it won't be required this time around.

OPPOSITION

During the week on the podcast I spoke to Glasgow STH David "@thepenGW" Arnott and he said he really wished we'd won last week (you and me both mate) as it could possibly have given us a "hangover" mentality, instead, as Tom "LeinsterRoyalty" Coleman also said on the pod, we're likely to have a "scorched earth" mentality with the Warriors very much in our sights.

And it certainly doesn't help their cause that Rory Darge is unavailable for them, but that's not to say they don't have other dangers around the park, with Ali Price's head to head with JGP a possible key matchup.

It looks like one of those contests were they need to at least stay within a score of us as long as possible which means their confidence will grow, although if you're looking for a "cheeky bet" I would not bat an eyelid if the Warriors were to score first.

PREDICTION

After last week I'm sorely tempted to leave this category blank! But you can't deny we're strong favourites, and the bookies bear that out with a 17-point margin. Like I've said, I want a statement from this team that Marseille is behind them and the best way to do that is to set the tone from the kickoff and go on to beat that prediction. I reckon we'll do that, if only just with an 18-20 point margin.

WHERE TO WATCH

Hopefully you'll be able to make it to the RDS we really need to give the lads our full support - that first place finish means winning gives us another home knockout match to look forward to. Otherwise it's the national broadcaster showing it, also Premier Sports and URC.TV, click the graphic above for details.

GET INVOLVED IN THE DISCUSSION

After watching the Sharks v Bulls match I'll be heading to the RDS myself to do my usual note-taking and occasional tweeting throughout the match, then at the full time whistle why don't you head over to our Facebook page and leave your own thoughts. Here's to a great Saturday afternoon's rugby in what is definitely the best league!!! JLP

Glasgow Warriors :  15. Ollie Smith 14. Josh McKay 13. Sione Tuipulotu 12. Sam Johnson 11. Rufus McLean 10. Ross Thompson 9. Ali Price
1. Jamie Bhatti 2. George Turner 3. Zander Fagerson 4. Rob Harley 5. Richie Gray 6. Ryan Wilson (C) 7. Gregor Brown 8. Jack Dempsey
16. Fraser Brown 17. Oli Kebble 18. Simon Berghan 19. Lewis Bean 20. Kiran McDonald 21. Thomas Gordon 22. George Horne 23. Domingo Miotti.

United Rugby Championship 2021/22 - Quarterfinal
Saturday, June 4, 2022
KO 3:15pm
RDS Arena

Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR)
AR 1: Craig Evans (WRU) 
AR 2: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR)
TMO: Matteo Lipperini (FIR)

Live on: RTÉ, Premier Sports, SuperSport & URC TV


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