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Leinster Rugby vs Glasgow Warriors
Guinness Pro12 Round 5
RDS Showground, Dublin
Friday, 23rd October 2015, 19:45

Television: Live - Sky Sports 3

Well it was Déjà vu all over again!

Just like in 2003 and 2011 Ireland went into a quarter-final of the World Cup with the whole country watching in excited anticipation.

And just like then, the whole bandwagon had fallen apart two hours later on the back of a comprehensive defeat.

Ireland's hopes were certainly not helped by the cruel loss of five key players but such was the intensity and speed of the Argentinian attack that we couldn't honestly say for sure that the result wouldn't have been the same even with them there.

So Ireland remains the only one of the "home" nations to have never won a game of knock-out rugby at the World Cup. But few in the Northern Hemisphere will be in the mood to make too many cracks about Ireland's misfortune as they share in the collective misery of being completely shut out of the World Cup semi-finals for the first time ever. Sure, Scotland probably should have won but Australia are clearly the better team and though Wales fought bravely against South Africa their lack of finesse out wide came back to haunt them again.

If there is one consolation to this, it is the hope that European rugby will have a long hard look at itself. In the last decade it has increasingly become an attritional game purely about huge players battering each other into submission. For the most part, it has not been great to watch and the Six Nations Championship, aided by the staunch refusal to introduce try bonus points, has largely become a dull grind, (bar when you get a bizarre set of results to set up a last day points chase, as with last season).

Though it was painful to watch Ireland get torn apart, any true rugby supporter could only admire how Argentina did it, with skill, pace, power and most of all ambition. The one crumb of comfort to Ireland is to realise that Argentina haven't been playing this type of style for that long. Their traditional game consisted of a big pack and a great kicking game and that was the bedrock of their success in finishing third back in the 2007 World Cup. Since joining the rugby championship back in 2012, they quickly realised their basic style wouldn't get far against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. So they changed to a running game and though the results didn't improve initially, they have gradually gotten better and better and have been one of the teams of the tournament. Japan are another example of using skill and pace to thrive against bigger teams.

In terms of developing a more potent attacking game, Ireland don't have to travel as long a journey as Argentina had to, but they do have to change their mindset. It has become fashionable to say that Irish players aren't natural offloaders of the ball, but when Joe Schmidt had Leinster at their best back in 2011 & 2012, they had one of the best offloading games in Europe. Yet since Schmidt has become Ireland coach, offloads have become as rare as hens teeth in Ireland's attacking play.

In truth, Schmidt's assertion that offloads carried more risk than reward was largely borne out by two Six Nations Championships. The more conservative gameplan which focused on an excellent kick-chase game and well-drilled power-plays kept errors to a minimum. It was successful in Europe as the team that makes the least errors generally wins. But unfortunately that gameplan will only get you so far, especially against teams that meet your physicality and can then exploit you out wide. If Ireland ever really want to be a team in a World Cup semi-final then that is the game they need to learn how to play.

The silver lining for Leinster is that they will get a lot of the start players back earlier and fresher for the season ahead. Though the heavy lifters in the squad like Jamie Heaslip, Cian Healy, Devin Toner and Rob Kearney probably won't be seen for a couple of weeks, a lot of the fringe players will be back to give coach Leo Cullen a lot more options, especially in the pack. This will be especially welcome given the nature of last week's defeat away to the Scarlets.

Though the team deserved some credit for making something of a comeback in the last twenty minutes, the game was done as a contest at that point. Though many of the younger players showed up well, as a team they looked like they were beaten from the start. From a purely Leinster point of view Cullen will be relieved to have his senior guys back to start assimilating them into the squad four weeks ahead of the start of European competition. He will also be relieved to see his players suffer no serious injuries, Johnny Sexton's abductor strain aside, something Ulster and Munster unfortunately couldn't say.

Leinster take on another team who were bulk suppliers to their national team for the World Cup in Glasgow. Both teams supplied 16 of the original squads named and like Leinster they've struggled a little this season, winning two from four. They too are the beneficiaries of returning internationals and they've named a team including Sean Lamont, Richie Vernon, Duncan Weir, Tim Swinson, Ryan Wilson and Kevin Bryce.

Sean Lamont, who became only the second Scottish player to break 100 caps during the World Cup, starts at full back with Taqele Naiyaravoro and Rory Hughes on the wing. Richie Vernon is paired with Fraser Lyle in the centre, while Duncan Weir partners former Scotland captain Mike Blair at half-back. Alex Allan, Pat MacArthur and Zander Fagerson are the front row while Tim Swinson partners Scott Cummings in the second row. Their summer signing Simone Favaro, so impressive against Ireland for Italy in the World Cup, is given his first start for his new club alongside skipper Rob Harley and Ryan Wilson in a back row to be reckoned with.

For Leinster they are able to feature four of the World Cup squad with Mike McCarthy and Rhys Ruddock starting and Isaac Boss and Tadgh Furlong on the bench. There is further good news in the return to fitness of Jack Conan and Ben Te'o. Ruddock and Conan start in a back row completed by openside Josh van der Flier, who's probably been Leinster's best player so far this season. Another impressive young player Ross Molony keeps his place in the second row but the power and experience of McCarthy will be welcomed back. Michael Bent and Marty Moore remain the starting props but Aaron Dundon reclaims the hooker spot. There are three further changes to the team in the backline. Cathal Marsh and Luke McGrath both impressed off the bench last week and are rewarded with starts. Te'o's resumes his centre partnership with Noel Reid and the back three is unchanged for the fourth game running. Isa Nacewa, who has scored three tries in his last two games, skippers the team from full back.

Glasgow were deserved Pro12 champions last season and they played a fantastic brand of rugby. Both of last seasons encounters between the two teams were entertaining games, especially the 34-all draw at the RDS. We could well see another high-scoring game tomorrow, but hopefully Leinster will have enough to win this time.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Glasgow Warriors
Teams Isa Nacewa (C)
15 Sean Lamont
Garry Ringrose
14 Taqele Naiyaravoro
Ben Te'o
13 Richie Vernon
Noel Reid
12 Fraser Lyle
Fergus McFadden
11 Rory Hughes
Cathal Marsh
10 Duncan Weir
Luke McGrath
9 Mike Blair

Michael Bent
1 Alex Allan
Aaron Dundon
2 Pat MacArthur
Marty Moore
3 Zander Fagerson
Ross Molony
4 Tim Swinson
Mike McCarthy
5 Scott Cummings
Rhys Ruddock6 Rob Harley (C)
Josh van der Flier
7 Simone Favaro
Jack Conan
8 Ryan Wilson

Replacements James Tracy 16 Kevin Bryce
Peter Dooley
17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa
Tadhg Furlong 18 Mike Cusack
Dominic Ryan 19 Greg Peterson
Dan Leavy
Adam Ashe
Isaac Boss
21 Hugh Blake
Ross Byrne
22 Grayson Hart
Cian Kelleher
23 Rory Clegg

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Mick Kearney,
Royce Burke-Flynn

Glenn Bryce,
Alex Dunbar,
Peter Murchie
Officials Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 36th competition game),
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Olly Hodges (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU),
TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-10-22