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Glasgow Warriors vs Leinster Rugby

Firhill Stadium, Glasgow,
Friday, 3rd September 2010, 19:05

Television: Live RTE 2/BBC Alba

Leinster start their Magners League campaign tonight in Glasgow. Leinster haven't won in Firhill for the last four seasons so it's not an easy place for Joe Schmidt to go to for his first competitive match in charge. The two pre-season matches against Wasps and Leicester were both heavy defeats but it would be wrong to read too much into the results given the strengths of the respective line-ups. Tonight though, the serious business begins.

Oh and for those who are impressed by irrelevant landmarks, this is the 300th professional game for Leinster.

For Glasgow they have serious ambitions to win silverware this term after an impressive run to the semi-finals last season. Their famed 'Killer B's' backrow has broken up though, as Kelly Brown has left for Saracens. The other two members, Johnnie Beattie and John Barclay, will miss the first few months of the season through injury. With their captain Ali Kellock and scrum-half Chris Cusiter also out injured and last season's leading scorer Dan Parks departed for Cardiff, it's probably not the worst time for Leinster to play Glasgow.

They've named a fairly young side. Henry Pyrgos and Ruaridh Jackson form a young but promising half back pairing. Jackson isn't as consistent a kicker as Parks but he's an exciting runner and will bring an unpredictability to their backplay. Argentina's Bernardo Stortani captains the team from full back and his fellow countryman Federico Aramburu plays on the left wing. Canadian international DTH van der Merwe completes an experienced back three. Scottish internationals Max Evans and Graeme Morrison make up a top class centre partnership.

In the pack Scottish internationals Fergus Thomson and Moray Low pack down in the front row alongside Jon Welsh, the impressive loosehead who's surely a future international. The 6 foot 10 Richie Gray starts in the second row alongside Tom Ryder, who's on loan from Saracens. In the backrow another international Richie Vernon starts at number eight with young flankers Ryan Wilson and Chris Fusaro either side of him. It's definitely an understrength team but there's still nine internationals in the starting line-up plus some exciting young talent so it would be dangerous to underestimate them on their home patch.

For Leinster the good news is that three of the Ireland internationals have been released to play earlier than expected. It had been thought that they wouldn't see any action until the third or fourth round but the Irish management altered their position and Jamie Heaslip and Shane Horgan will start and John Fogarty is on the bench. The inclusion of Heaslip is a massive boost and he makes up an explosive backrow with Dominic Ryan and Sean O'Brien. O'Brien continues as captain after impressing in the role in the pre-season matches. It will be interesting to see how Ryan goes at blind-side where he played most of his rugby before being switched to open-side last season. His hard-hitting style seems more suited to the number six jersey.

There are three debutants in the front five, Heinke van der Merwe, Ed O'Donoghue and Simon Shawe. Shawe is a Ballymena prop who was on the fringes of the Ulster squad a few years back. He and ex-Glasgow prop Ben Prescott have been signed as replacements for the injured Stan Wright, who will unfortunately miss most of the season after rupturing his achilles tendon. Mike Ross will hopefully be back before too long but those two will have to share the workload at tighthead until then and they'll have their work cut out against Jon Welsh. Both guys have been dropped in at the deep end, and it's hard to know what their fitness level will be like so fans shouldn't expect miracles from them. Richardt Strauss makes his second Leinster start at hooker and Nathan Hines will bring some invaluable experience in the boiler room.

In the backs Isaac Boss makes his debut at scrum-half and will partner Isa Nacewa who starts at ten with Shaun Berne out injured until October. Eoin O'Malley and Fergus McFadden reform the centre partnership that showed so much promise last season. In the back three, Horgan takes his normal spot on the right wing with full back Niall Morris given a chance on the left wing. Luke Fitzgerald starts at full back and he looked very sharp in the pre-season warm-up matches. There are three more potential debutants on the bench in Prescott, Argentina lock Mariano Galarza and academy centre Eamonn Sheridan.

It's pretty hard to predict how the game's going to go. It could be a typical early season match, an error-strewn, low-scoring mess. However with the benign weather forecast and two adventurous number tens playing it could turn into a bit of a try-scoring shoot-out. Whatever happens, it's going to be a learning experience for both sides but hopefully Leinster can get the breaks for a valuable away win.

Team Lineups
  Glasgow Warriors   Leinster Rugby
Teams Bernardo Stortoni (C) 15 Luke Fitzgerald
DTH van der Merwe 14 Shane Horgan
Max Evans 13 Eoin O'Malley
Graeme Morrison 12 Fergus McFadden
Federico Aramburu 11 Niall Morris
Ruaridh Jackson 10 Isa Nacewa
Henry Pyrgos 9 Isaac Boss

Jon Welsh 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Fergus Thomson 2 Richardt Strauss
Moray Low 3 Simon Shawe
Tom Ryder 4 Nathan Hines
Richie Gray 5 Ed O'Donoghue
Ryan Wilson 6 Dominic Ryan
Chris Fusaro 7 Sean O'Brien (C)
Richie Vernon 8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Pat MacArthur 16 John Fogarty
Ed Kalman 17 Jack McGrath
Ryan Grant 18 Ben Prescott
Aly Muldowney 19 Mariano Galarza
Rob Harley 20 Stephen Keogh
Duncan Weir 21 Paul O'Donohoe
Hefin O'Hare 22 Ian Madigan
Peter Murchie 23 Eamonn Sheridan
Not Considered
due to Injury
Ali Kellock,
John Barclay,
Chris Cusiter,
Johnnie Beattie,
James Eddie,
Colin Gregor

Stan Wright,
Leo Cullen,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Mike Ross,
Shaun Berne
Match Officials Referee: Tim Hayes (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Andy Macpherson (SRU), Graeme Marshall (SRU)
TMO: Jim Yuille (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2010-09-03