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Leinster Rugby vs Glasgow Warriors
RDS Showground, Dublin
Sunday, 20th November 2011, 12:45

Television: Live Sky Sports 3, Highlights TG4 17.25

After six weeks away, Leinster fans will be happy to be back home at the RDS. Heineken Cup games are rare at the RDS these days with so many games being moved to the Aviva for understandable financial reasons. The atmosphere at the new stadium has been generally good but it's not like the special crackle in the air you get on Heineken Cup days at the RDS. Even with the lousy kick off time, 12:45 on a Sunday, there should be a buzz about the place for the visit of Glasgow, who are the surprise group leaders after week one.

Glasgow beat Bath with a last minute try, while Leinster fought out a brutally physical draw in Montpellier. Leinster could have won the game in the end and perhaps should have, however going into the last quarter ten points down they would certainly have settled for a draw at that stage. In the end, it was a fair result, as Montpellier deserved something for their tremendous first sixty minutes. However Leinster showed their experience by keeping their patience and making sure they got something out of the match.

Once again Joe Schmidt will have been less than thrilled with the performance, especially at the breakdown that unfortunately has been a recurring problem this season. Leinster did play some good rugby at times and made plenty of line breaks but they weren't clinical enough in finishing off their chances. You get the sense that Leinster are getting closer to their top game though and when they do click, they're going to give some team a proper hiding. Schmidt will hope it happens this Sunday because last week's draw away will only have value if followed up with a home win.

He'll know that Leinster will need to turn up with the right attitude but hopefully that won't be a problem following Glasgow's shock win in the RDS back in September. Glasgow arrived that day with a mixed team of veterans, academy kids and local club players. Perhaps Leinster didn't give them the respect they deserved and they appeared to be playing for a four-try bonus point win from early on. But Glasgow showed great guts to hold out during long periods of pressure and then hit back with two tries for a deserved 23-19 win. It ended Leinster's long unbeaten run at the RDS and though they haven't lost since, that defeat still stings.

The win in Dublin was Glasgow's first of the season, but it appeared to be a one-off as the next week they lost at home to Treviso. However the following week they recorded a remarkable 34-13 win away to Cardiff and this started an unbeaten run over their last five games. That run took in league wins over the Dragons, the Ospreys and Aironi that has left them well-placed at fourth in the table. Last week's win over Bath kept the unbeaten run going and they arrive with real confidence.

Of course both teams are greatly changed from the line-ups that started back in September. Glasgow haven't been able to bring all their World Cup players back yet as some are still injured like out-half Ruaridh Jackson but they have been able to bring in Richie Gray, Alistair Kellock, John Barclay, Graeme Morrison and Chris Cusiter. Their coach Sean Lineen has named a team with only one change from the one that started last week, Peter Murchie replacing the injured Rob Dewey in the centre alongside Morrison.

That means Kellock and Gray will combine to provide possibly the tallest second row partnership in the club game at the moment. The six-foot-ten, twenty-stone Gray is already one of the best locks in Europe at the tender age of 22, a huge man who's also fantastic in the loose. The news broke last week that he'd signed a contract with Sale Sharks for next season. It's another blow to Scottish rugby of course, but the most amazing thing is that he picked a struggling English Premiership team when surely he could have had his pick of the finest teams in Europe.

Of the other internationals Barclay brings some class to the openside role in a typically hard-working backrow and Cusiter will be looking to finally have an injury free run to truly become the world-class scrum-half he promised to be when he was younger. Cusiter partners the doughty out-half Duncan Weir, whose superb place-kicking earned him the man of the match award last week. Tommy Seymour, the former Ulster player, is on the right wing and Stuart Hogg, a try-scorer last week, is at full back. It's not the most stellar line-up, but Leinster shouldn't be fooled into complacency. Glasgow always make things awkward and they're a superbly conditioned team who play to the final whistle, unlike Montpellier who ran out of steam in the last twenty minutes last week.

For Leinster Schmidt has made four changes to the team that started last week's game. With Fergus McFadden injured, Eoin O'Malley comes in to start only his second Heineken Cup match at outside centre. Eoin Reddan starts his first game of the season at scrum-half in place of Isaac Boss who drops to the bench. In the pack, Devin Toner replaces Damien Browne in the second row and Sean Cronin makes his first Heineken Cup start for Leinster at hooker. Cronin is rewarded for his spectacular contribution off the bench last week and that means Richardt Strauss drops to the bench after starting ten Heineken Cup matches in a row for Leinster. In fairness it's a very strong bench again that also features Rhys Ruddock, Fionn Carr and Cian Healy, who's back from injury. Shane Jennings will be disappointed not to be recalled to the starting line-up but he played a big role off the bench the last day and he and the others will be called on to do the same again.

Glasgow will no doubt come out firing as they'll be no pressure on them and they'll have nothing to lose. However if Leinster keep their cool and show a professional attitude they should have more than enough to get the win they need.


Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Glasgow Warriors
Teams Rob Kearney
15 Stuart Hogg
Isa Nacewa 14 Tommy Seymour
Eoin O'Malley
13 Peter Murchie
Gordon D'Arcy
12 Graeme Morrison
Luke Fitzgerald 11 Colin Shaw
Jonathan Sexton
10 Duncan Weir
Eoin Reddan
9 Chris Cusiter

Heinke van der Merwe
1 Ryan Grant
Sean Cronin
2 Pat MacArthur
Mike Ross
3 Mike Cusack
Leo Cullen (C)
4 Richie Gray
Devin Toner 5 Al Kellock (C)
Kevin McLaughlin 6 Rob Harley
Sean O'Brien 7 John Barclay
Jamie Heaslip
8 Ryan Wilson

Replacements Sean Cronin 16 Finlay Gillies
Cian Healy
17 Jon Welsh
Jamie Hagan 18 Ed Kalman
Rhys Ruddock
19 Tom Ryder
Shane Jennings
20 Henry Pyrgos
Isaac Boss
21 Chris Fusaro
Ian Madigan 22 Federico Aramburu
Fionn Carr
23 Troy Nathan

Not Considered
due to Injury
Mat Berquist,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Shane Horgan,
Simon Shawe,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Fergus McFadden,
Dominic Ryan,
Steven Sykes

Alex Dunbar,
Calum Forrester,
Fergus Thomson,
DTH van der Merwe,
Ruaridh Jackson,
Rob Dewey,
Dougie Hall
Officials Referee: Andrew Small (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Martin Fox, Roy Maybank (both RFU)
4th Official: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)
5th Official: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-11-18