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Leinster Rugby vs Glasgow Warriors
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Friday, 6th May 2011, 19:05

Television: Live: TG4

What an occasion!

Last week Leinster and Toulouse took to the stage of the Aviva stadium like two grizzled old gladiators. They went to war for 80 minutes and when it was all over, the respect between the two teams was palpable and heart-warming. There was no whining from the Toulouse coach and players, just a tip of the hat from one great team to another. Toulouse had given it everything but the better team had won on the day and they were man enough to admit it rather than trying to deflect the blame onto the referee like certain English teams have done this season. Once again, Toulouse showed their class.

For their part Leinster were delighted with the win, but true to their standards this season, quite critical of their own performance. In truth they didn't play as well as they know they can and they certainly won't be happy with the start they made and conceding two very sloppy tries. The Toulouse defence was excellent and very well prepped and they marked a lot of Leinster's danger men out of the match meaning they weren't able to get their normal offloading game going. In the past Leinster would have lost that game, but this team regrouped on the pitch and showed their character. They won the match out of sheer will, doing whatever they had to do to get the ball over the line and then defending for their lives. In terms of pure effort, the performance was awesome.

Now Northampton await in the final in Cardiff and though Leinster will show them due respect, they won't be afraid of them after beating the top three in France and the top two in England. Before that though, it's back to Magners League business and Glasgow at the RDS tomorrow evening. This is Leinster's last regular league game of the season and though they've already secured a place in the play-offs, they need to win tomorrow evening to secure a home semi-final.

They take on a Glasgow team that's endured a spectacular fall from grace this season. Last year, they had a very good campaign and finished third in the table before losing to the Ospreys in the semi-finals. They lost some key men from that team though in the likes of Kelly Brown, Dan Parks and Thom Evans and this season they've also been ravaged by injuries and player unavailability. This means they've only won six games and lie in second last place in the table.

Then the news came just over a month ago that Scotland coach Andy Robinson was pulling out key men in Ali Kellock, Richie Gray and John Barclay from the rest of the Magners League campaign to rest them for the World Cup. It seems a ludicrously heavy-handed move and it must have been another blow to those involved in the Scottish professional sides, making them wonder just how committed the SRU are to their teams. After all, this is the organisation that once pulled their internationals out of a crucial Leinster-Edinburgh match, so that they could be rested for a Scotland match the following week...against the Barbarians! So, with Edinburgh also struggling this season, there is a gloomy atmosphere surrounding Scottish rugby at the moment.

Glasgow coach Sean Lineen will be doing his best to get a strong finish from his team though. He's named a side with a mixture of youth and experience. Scottish international Graeme Morrison captains the team from the centre and he partners 18-year-old Mark Bennett, who makes his debut. Bennett is considerd a hot prospect in Scottish rugby so it will be interesting to see how he goes. Peter Murchie, Argentinean Federico Aramburu and Canadian international DTH van der Merwe make up a pretty decent back three. At halfback they have the talented but injury prone scrum-half Chris Cusiter and Richie Weir, who kicked the winning points against Leinster back in September. They have internationals in the pack in the shape of Richie Vernon, Johnnie Beattie, Fergus Thomson and Moray Low. All things considered, it's not a bad side at all in the circumstances.

For Leinster coach Joe Schmidt, it's a case of a balancing act again between getting out a strong enough team to do the job while also resting players for the battles ahead in the next few weeks. He's made ten changes, one positional, from the team that started last week. In the pack Kevin McLaughlin switches from the back row to the second row where he partners Devin Toner. Jack McGrath and Stan Wright come in at prop alongside hooker Richardt Strauss. Strauss and Jamie Heaslip are the only forwards to retain their starting spots from the last day as Dominic Ryan and Shane Jennings also come into the back row.

In the backs Ian Madigan and Isaac Boss come in at halfback and Fergus McFadden and Eoin O'Malley come into the three-quarter line. Isa Nacewa, who last night was named players' player of the season at the IRUPA awards, continues at fullback and Shane Horgan and Gordon D'Arcy also retain their places. Heaslip captains the team in the absence of Leo Cullen. Once again Schmidt has named a team with a nice mix of youth and experience.

Leinster will remember playing Glasgow in the first game of the season, a game they looked to have won at half-time before throwing it away in the second half. That match seems like a lifetime ago now, but it should be enough to keep them wary of any complacency against Glasgow. Leinster are in business mode and will look to blitz Glasgow from the start. With that in mind, they should be able to win with something to spare.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Glasgow Warriors
Teams Isa Nacewa
15 Peter Murchie
Shane Horgan
14 Federico Aramburu
Eoin O'Malley
13 Mark Bennett
Gordon D'Arcy
12 Graeme Morrison (C)
Fergus McFadden
11 DTH van der Merwe
Ian Madigan 10 Duncan Weir
Isaac Boss 9 Chris Cusiter

Jack McGrath
1 Ryan Grant
Richardt Strauss
2 Fergus Thomson
Stan Wright
3 Moray Low
Kevin McLaughlin 4 Aly Muldowney
Devin Toner
5 Tom Ryder
Dominic Ryan
6 James Eddie
Shane Jennings 7 Richie Vernon
Jamie Heaslip (C)
8 Johnnie Beattie

Replacements Aaron Dundon
16 Dougie Hall
Cian Healy
17 Jon Welsh
Mike Ross
18 Kevin Tkachuk
Nathan Hines
19 Robert Harley
Rhys Ruddock
20 Chris Fusaro
Paul O'Donohoe
21 Colin Gregor
Ian McKinley
22 Ruaridh Jackson
David Kearney
23 Peter Horne

Not Considered
due to Injury
Rob Kearney

Officials Referee: James Jones (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Simon McDowell, Mark Patton (both IRFU)
4th Official: Kevin Beggs (Leinster Rugby Referees)
5th Official: Wayne Sheridan (Leinster Rugby Referees)
TMO: Peter Ferguson (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-05-05