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Glasgow Warriors vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 9
Scotstoun, Glasgow,
Saturday, 5th December 2015, 15:00

Television: Live - Sky Sports 1

Leinster got back to winning ways last week, even if once again the performance left a lot to be desired. The pack actually went pretty well and largely dominated but the chances they created were mostly squandered by some appalling handling from the backs. The handling skills in the squad have been poor for some time now and when you see how Connacht players, forwards and backs, handled the ball so well in their defeat of Munster, you really have to question Leinster's players and their coach's training methods. It's almost become the standard line after games these days for Leinster to talk of "poor execution" and they have only scored three tries in their last four games, not one of them from a back. It looks like they need a root and branch review of why their skills repeatedly let them down in the opposition twenty two.

The positives from the game was the improved defence, a good showing from the scrum and the outstanding individual performance of Josh van der Flier. The young openside has been Leinster's best player this season and at times last week there seemed to be three of him on the pitch, as he was everywhere making countless tackles, hitting rucks and making several good carries. Coach Leo Cullen needs to trust his young players more because they're the guys delivering most at the moment. In that regard it's a shame Garry Ringrose is left on the bench again this week in favour of Zane Kirchner, who brings experience but little else to the right wing. Rob Kearney is again named to start at full back but after his late withdrawal last week, we'll have to wait until kick-off to see if his hamstring will allow him to take to the pitch. After impressing on the wing last week, Luke Fitzgerald is moved back to inside centre to allow for the return of Dave Kearney to the left wing.

There are new half-backs in Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan, two players who are badly struggling for form at the moment. Reddan's passing, a big strength for most of his career, has suddenly become very erratic and he badly needs to sharpen up his act. Madigan, who has been the subject of speculation about a move to England, has been speaking of his need to regularly play at ten. But his chances are undermined by his game management skills which were once again shown up last week when he took over from Johnny Sexton for the final quarter of the game. An example of this was when Noel Reid went down injured and was receiving lengthy treatment. Leinster were defending in their own half at the time but after Ulster went through a lengthy numbers of phases, the ball was turned over and Madigan received the ball, which should have been kicked to touch to allow a break for Reid's treatment. Instead Madigan simply hoofed the ball straight down the middle to Peter Nelson who immediately counter-attacked and Leinster had to go through another series of phases defending with only fourteen men. Madigan isn't a kid anymore, he's 26, and if he can't comprehend how daft that kick was at this stage, you'd wonder if he ever will.

Another player struggling for form, Jordi Murphy, comes in to start in the back row alongside van der Flier and Rhys Ruddock, who skippers the team. Murphy starts at eight, which means he's now started in three different back row positions in his last three games. Murphy's versatility expedited his career in the early days, particularly towards the Ireland squad, but now the constant switching appears to be holding him back somewhat and he could do with a solid game tomorrow for his confidence. Mike McCarthy is the only player to retain his place in the front five as Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Marty Moore and Tom Denton all come in to start.

In a tight league Leinster need to win to keep their spot in the top four. Glasgow are only a point behind in fifth place and the champions are back in winning form after a slow start to their title defence. They haven't lost since they were beaten at the RDS back in October in a game that hinged on a controversial penalty try awarded to Leinster. So they certainly won't be shy of motivation to get their revenge tomorrow.

Their coach Gregor Townsend has named a team that shows ten changes from the team that laboured to a win over Treviso last week. Stuart Hogg and Taqele Naiyaravoro continue at full-back and right wing respectively, but Tommy Seymour comes in for Sean Lamont on the left wing. Alex Dunbar moves from inside to outside centre to allow Peter Horne to play at 12. There is a new half-back pairing of Duncan Weir and Mike Blair.

In the pack there's a whole new front row in Ryan Grant, James Malcolm and Tongan prop Sila Puafisi. The offloading Fijian second row Leone Nakarawa, who was a star at the World Cup, comes in to partner captain Jonny Gray in the engine room. In the back-row Josh Strauss and Simone Favaro comes in on the flanks while Adam Ashe continues at number eight.

It's an interesting call to be resting players like Devin Toner, Jamie Heaslip and Jack McGrath for this match when the league is now Leinster's only realistic target for success this season. However that may be the IRFU's call, not Leo Cullen's. The weather forecast is expected to be lousy but given the respective strengths of the two backlines, a wet and windy day may actually be to Leinster's advantage. A kicking contest dominated by scrums could well be Leinster's best hope of sneaking what would be a very important win.

Team Lineups

Glasgow Warriors

Leinster Rugby
Teams Stuart Hogg15 Rob Kearney
Taqele Naiyaravoro14 Zane Kirchner
Alex Dunbar13 Ben Te'o
Peter Horne12 Luke Fitzgerald
Tommy Seymour11 Dave Kearney
Duncan Weir10 Ian Madigan
Mike Blair9 Eoin Reddan

Ryan Grant1 Cian Healy
James Malcolm2 Richardt Strauss
Sila Puafisi3 Marty Moore
Leone Nakarawa4 Tom Denton
Jonny Gray (C)5 Mike McCarthy
Josh Strauss6 Rhys Ruddock (C)
Simone Favaro 7 Josh van der Flier
Adam Ashe8 Jordi Murphy

Replacements Shalva Mamukashvili 16 Sean Cronin
Jerry Yanuyanutawa17 Peter Dooley
Zander Fagerson18 Tadhg Furlong
Tim Swinson19 Ross Molony
Rob Harley20
Dominic Ryan
Ali Price 21 Isaac Boss
Finn Russell22 Cathal Marsh
Sean Lamont23 Garry Ringrose

Not Considered
Due to Injury
Fraser Brown,
Glenn Bryce,
Kevin Bryce,
Mike Cusack,
Tyrone Holmes,
Rory Hughes,
Kieran Low,
Pat MacArthur,
Peter Murchie,
Henry Pyrgos,
D'arcy Rae,
Gordon Reid,
Fergus Scott,
Richie Vernon,
Ryan Wilson

Jack Conan,
Nick McCarthy,
Edward Byrne,
Mick Kearney,
Sean O'Brien,
Hayden Triggs,
Fergus McFadden,
Luke McGrath,
Noel Reid
Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Lloyd Linton, Dunx McClement (both SRU),
Citing Commissioner: Paul Minto (SRU),
TMO: Jim Yuille (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-12-04