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Glasgow Warriors vs Leinster Rugby
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow
Friday, 23rd April 2010, 20:00

Television: Live Setanta Ireland

All good things come to an end and Leinster's twelve-match unbeaten run unfortunately ended with something of a whimper on Wednesday night in Galway. Though a strong Leinster team had been named in the hope of securing top spot in the league, their hearts never looked in it and they couldn't match Connacht's physicality in both defence and at the breakdown. Connacht richly deserved their win for their commitment and their intelligent tactics but it was still a desperately poor performance from Leinster.

Certainly the bewilderingly incompetent referee Peter Fitzgibbon played his usual negative part in the match (where do the IRFU find these people!) but it would be dishonest for Leinster to blame him for their downfall. Coach Michael Cheika conceded that Leinster didn't have the "correct attitude" and from the start, it was blatantly obvious in the body language of the team that they simply weren't up for a battle.

In the ten days before the Toulouse match, all the coaches will have a lot to work on. Alan Gaffney will have to look at why Leinster's attack was so blunt, especially in the first half when they dominated possession but hardly made a single line break. Jonno Gibbes will be beasting the forwards because, for the second game against Connacht in a row, they were murdered at the breakdown. Kurt McQuilkin will also have his work cut out for him as this was the worst defensive performance in the last two seasons. The number of first-up missed tackles was bad enough but the organisation and work rate at the ruck area was abysmal.

So it certainly won't be a handy run-in to the semi for the lads and Cheika will be doing his best to make sure the mental attitude is right for Toulouse. In truth, it might be the kick in the arse the team needs to refocus minds on doing the basics right. In the meantime Leinster have a trip to Glasgow tomorrow evening. Cheika had already named his team in advance of the Connacht match and he gambled by putting most of the experienced players in the Wednesday side. That gamble didn't pay off and now the Friday team has a tough challenge ahead.

For Leinster it's certainly one of the most inexperienced teams they've ever put out. There's eleven academy players in the squad, with five starting. Two of these, Ian Madigan and Michael Keating, are in the backs and both will make their full competitive debuts after making previous appearances as replacements. The experienced Simon Keogh completes the back three, starting his second game in two days after coming in as a late replacement for Isa Nacewa midweek. Eoin O'Malley, who was originally due to start against Connacht but came on for the second half instead, partners Fergus McFadden in midfield. McFadden will resume place-kicking duties and though both are young lads, it's actually one of the more experienced departments in the team.

With Ian McKinley still out injured, scrum-half Paul O'Donohue plays at ten, where he partners Chris Keane. O'Donohue has played there before for the Leinster 'A' side but this is a whole different level. Indeed McFadden and Madigan may be called on to do most of the tactical kicking. In the pack Ciaran Ruddock makes his senior debut in the second row, but he'll at least be surrounded by experience in the front five. He's partnered by Trevor Hogan and will have Ronan McCormack, Bernard Jackman and Mike Ross packing down in front of him. Jackman captains the side and it's vital that he and the other older heads lead from the front to help the young guys out.

In the backrow Stephen Keogh is the only other player to start both games as he takes the number eight jersey again. Ruddock's brother Rhys and Paul Ryan start on the flanks and will be looking to build on some impressive previous performances. On the bench Jason Harris-Wright will be looking to finally make his senior debut, after being an unused replacement on a couple of occasions. The rest of the bench is from the academy and four of them, Jack McGrath, Mark Flanagan, David Moore and Brendan Macken (who is bracketed with Kyle Tonetti), will be hoping to make their senior competitive debuts.

For Glasgow this is a vital game for their hopes of making the top four. Indeed, they can still secure themselves a home semi-final too if they win both their last two games and other results go their way. They've named a very strong side with most of the big guns that dominated the Scotland team during the Six Nations. Their famed back-row, "the Killer B's" of Kelly Brown, John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie, all start as do the international half-back combo of Christ Cusiter and Dan Parks, who's in the form of his life right down. Another international, Alastair Kellock, captains the team from the second row and Moray Low locks the scrum at tighthead prop.

In the centres the powerful Graeme Morrison partners the elusive Max Evans. Evans's brother Thom is still recovering from the horrific neck injury which he sustained in the Scotland-Wales match but they still have a dangerous back three in Bernardo Stortoni, Colin Shaw and Hefin O'Hare. O'Hare in particular is one to watch, as his sensational try against Leinster in their recent defeat in the RDS showed.

In short, a very callow Leinster team are up against it as Glasgow is a tough place to get a win even with a full strength team. Perhaps the best attitude for Cheika to take is to take the pressure off them by telling to go out and enjoy themselves as they've nothing to lose. It's vital though that they don't have the terrible start that a similar team had away to the Dragons and that's where the experienced players come in.

If the old heads can get the young lads through the first twenty minutes or so then, who knows, miracles do happen sometimes!!

Team Lineups

Glasgow Warriors

Leinster Rugby
Teams Bernardo Stortoni
15 Ian Madigan
Colin Shaw
14 Simon Keogh
Max Evans
13 Eoin O'Malley
Graeme Morrison
12 Fergus McFadden
Hefin O'Hare
11 Michael Keane
Dan Parks
10 Paul O'Donohoe
Chris Cusiter
9 Chris Keane

Kevin Tkachuk
1 Ronan McCormack
Fergus Thomson
2 Bernard Jackman (C)
Moray Low
3 Mike Ross
Tim Barker
4 Trevor Hogan
Alastair Kellock (C)
5 Ciaran Ruddock
Kelly Brown
6 Rhys Ruddock
John Barclay
7 Paul Ryan
Johnnie Beattie
8 Stephen Keogh

Replacements Dougie Hall
16 Jason Harris-Wright
Ed Kalman
17 Jack McGrath
Dan Turner
18 Mark Flanagan
Calum Forrester
19 Dominic Ryan
Mark McMillan
20 David Moore
Duncan Weir
21 Kyle Tonetti / Brendan Macken
Rob Dewey
22 Andrew Conway
Not Considered
due to Injury

Luke Fitzgerald
Sean O'Brien
Ian McKinley
Jonathan Sexton
Rob Kearney
Dave Kearney
Devin Toner
Match Officials Referee: James Jones (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan (SRU), Graham Allan (SRU)
TMO: Jim Yuille (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2010-04-22