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Glasgow Warriors vs Leinster Rugby
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow,
Saturday, 25th February 2012, 18:00

Television: Live TG4/BBC Alba

After last week's somewhat fortunate win over the Scarlets, Leinster retained their ten-point lead at the top of the table over the Ospreys. Leinster can't afford to get too complacent though. Of their seven remaining games, only two are at home and certainly Munster, Ulster and the Dragons are tough places to get wins. Their biggest threat to finishing top of the table may not come from second-placed Ospreys but from Munster who are currently in third place but have a game in hand. Munster's run-in looks a lot easier than Leinster's and they could well win all their remaining games. So Leinster will have to remain on guard to keep the points rolling in as much as possible.

Their match against Glasgow is their fourth meeting of the season, so the two sides will certainly be familiar with each other. Leinster won both the meetings in the Heineken Cup but Glasgow won the league meeting back in September in the RDS. That particular match sticks in the memory, as it was the game that ended Leinster's long unbeaten run at home. It was also the last game that Leinster lost this season as they've gone on an eighteen-game unbeaten run since then in all competitions.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt would have long marked this game as the one most likely to break their streak. Firhill is a very difficult place to go to, the stadium is frankly a depressing dump and the pitch is narrow and soft underfoot. Glasgow's record there is very impressive and they're undefeated in the league at home since September. In fact Leinster are the only team to have beaten them at home in all competitions since then and that 23-16 win in January was a bloody tough game that could have gone either way.

Glasgow drew away to Connacht last weekend, a result that leaves them in fourth place. They have firm ambitions of a play-off spot but they know the teams either side of them in the table, Munster and Cardiff, both have a game in hand. This means the pressure is on to keep their good form going. With nine players in the Scotland squad to face France on Sunday, Glasgow coach Sean Lineen has made four changes from the team that started last week.

With Graeme Morrison required by the national team, former Connacht player Troy Nathan replaces him at inside centre with Alex Dunbar taking Nathan's slot at outside centre. Colin Shaw replaces Tommy Seymour on the wing meaning Samoan veteran David Lemi switches to the right wing. Scotland international Peter Murchie completes the back three at full-back. Ruaridh Jackson is not yet required by Scotland so he continues his rehabilitation from injury at out-half where he partners Henry Pyrgos.

There are two further changes in the pack as specialist tight-head prop Mike Cusack comes in for Jon Welsh and Nick Campbell comes into the second row in place of Rob Verbakel. They've named a young but very talented backrow in Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Ryan Wilson. Harley is entrusted with the captaincy, showing how highly he's rated and he caused Leinster several problems at the breakdown back in September and will need to be watched carefully. Overall it's a young but very able team and Leinster will be warned by Schmidt about under-estimating them.

Leinster have made nine changes to the team that started against the Scarlets. Most of the outside backs are the same with the only changes in midfield where Brendan Macken and Colm O'Shea come in for Eoin O'Malley and Fergus McFadden. O'Malley is named on the bench and as he would have been training with the Ireland squad all week, Schmidt prefers to start with the combination that went very well against Treviso two weeks ago. Isaac Boss comes in for Eoin Reddan at scrum-half. It's good to see Andrew Conway back on the bench alongside O'Malley after struggling with injury for most of the season.

There are several changes to the pack where only Damian Browne and Shane Jennings retain their starting spots from last week. Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss and Nathan White come in to form an entirely new front row. Mark Flanagan, who went so well against Cardiff last month, comes into the second row to partner Browne and make his second Leinster start. Dominic Ryan comes in at blindside flanker to make his first Leinster start since the Edinburgh match at the end of October. Leo Auva'a is back at number eight and he made a big impression with his ball carrying when he came on last week. In the absence of Kevin McLaughlin, Jennings takes over the captaincy.

His experience will be needed and the young backline will once again lean heavily on Isa Nacewa and Isaac Boss. It's an exciting back three with Nacewa, David Kearney and Fionn Carr but it remains to be seen how much ball they'll get. It will most likely be a scrappy enough match and Leinster will have learned from previous encounters that Glasgow are a well-organised outfit that keeping going to the very end. They're good at keeping the ball for long periods and wearing teams down so Leinster will need to keep their patience and wait for the chances to come. If they can do that, then they can escape with another win, but you get the feeling that this match might just go the way of Glasgow this time.

Team Lineups

Glasgow Warriors

Leinster Rugby
Teams Peter Murchie
15 Isa Nacewa
David Lemi
14 David Kearney
Alex Dunbar
13 Brendan Macken
Troy Nathan
12 Colm O'Shea
Colin Shaw 11 Fionn Carr
Ruaridh Jackson
10 Ian Madigan
Henry Pyrgos
9 Isaac Boss

Ryan Grant
1 Heinke van der Merwe
Pat MacArthur 2 Richardt Strauss
Mike Cusack
3 Nathan White
Nick Campbell
4 Damian Browne
Tom Ryder
5 Mark Flanagan
Rob Harley (C)
6 Dominic Ryan
Chris Fusaro 7 Shane Jennings (C)
Ryan Wilson
8 Leo Auva'a

Replacements Dougie Hall 16 Aaron Dundon
Jon Welsh
17 Jack McGrath
Gordon Reid
18 Jamie Hagan
Rob Verbakel
19 Devin Toner
Calum Forrester
20 Jordi Murphy
Scott Wight
21 John Cooney
Federico Aramburu
22 Eoin O'Malley
Tommy Seymour
23 Andrew Conway

Not Considered
due to Injury
Rob Dewey,
Moray Low,
DTH van der Merwe

Mat Berquist,
Shane Horgan,
Brian O’Driscoll,
Eamonn Sheridan,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Leo Cullen,
Ben Marshall

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Andrew McMenemy, Graeme Marshall (both SRU),
TMO: Jim Yuille (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2012-02-24