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Leinster Rugby vs Glasgow Warriors
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Saturday, 23th March 2013, 19:45

Television: Live - RTE2, BBC ALBA

The Six Nations Championship may have been a disaster for Ireland, but Leinster weren't untouched either as they suffered plenty of collateral damage with several injuries to first-choice backs. Eoin Reddan and Luke Fitzgerald are out for the season and Jonathan Sexton will do well to make it back for the last few games before he heads off to France. Fergus McFadden was injured too although hopefully he will be back fairly soon. Coupled with Brian O'Driscoll's ban it means Leinster are missing 5 of their starting backline.

At least it was a very productive period over the last seven weeks for Leinster on the pitch. Before Leinster played Cardiff four games ago, Ulster had a twelve-point at the top of the table and looked uncatchable. Second place looked the only realistic target. However four wins later things are looking a lot rosier for Leinster. With injury-hit Ulster only getting one win and a draw from their four games, their lead over Leinster has been cut to two points.

However even with a record of 24 points from the 25 available this year, Leinster are remarkably not the form team in the league. That title goes to tomorrow's opponents Glasgow, who have a perfect record of 25 from 25 in 2013. It is that form that has seen them over-take Ulster at the top of the league on points difference. Their signing from Fiji, Nikola Matawalu, who plays at scrum-half and wing for them as needed, had made a huge impact in their recent good run. He's scored five tries in his last five games and is a serious danger-man for them.

Despite the return of Scotland squad member Henry Pyrgos, Matawalu keeps the number nine jersey and Duncan Weir is given the nod at fly-half ahead of his Scotland colleague Ruaridh Jackson, just as he replaced him in the national jersey during the Six Nations. Despite their good run, Glasgow's place-kicking has been erratic when Weir's been away so he is an important man for them.

In all their coach Gregor Townsend has made seven changes (including one positional) to the team that beat Cardiff the last time out. Tommy Seymour comes in on the right wing with Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe starting on the left. The in-form Peter Horne and Alex Dunbar continue in the centre, with Peter Murchie once again at full-back.

Most of the changes come in the pack where skipper Ali Kellock is the only one of the front five to retain his place. He's partnered in the second row by the dynamic Tom Ryder and internationals Moray Low, Dougie Hall and Ed Kalman come in to form an entirely new front row. Blindside flanker Rob Harley returns to the team after a fine Six Nations campaign which means the influential South African Josh Strauss moves to number eight. Openside John Barclay completes the team and he'll hope to continue his recent good run after recovering from a long-term injury.

It's a very impressive line-up and Glasgow will really fancy their chances of adding to the win they had in the RDS last season. This season's previous meeting between the two sides is hard to take anything from. It was a dog of a game that Leinster won 6-0 in the rain and wind. That was back in November and though they were hammered away to Munster the week after that, Glasgow haven't lost since in the league with seven straight wins. Scotland's reasonably strong showing in the Six Nations, including a win over Ireland, won't have hurt the confidence of their internationals either.

Leinster Joe Schmidt will be hoping that his side can absorb the injuries and continue their own good recent form. Leinster received more bad news during the week (is there any other kind these days?) when Isa Nacewa announced his retirement from all rugby at the end of the season. A full tribute will follow in time, but for now we'll just say that Isa is a Leinster legend and he'll always be remembered as one of our finest ever signings. After missing the last four games, Schmidt is able to name Isa at full back on a team that shows 11 changes from the starting team that beat the Dragons.

Nacewa takes over from the desperately unfortunate Luke Fitzgerald at full back. David Kearney, who bagged a pair of tries last time out, retains his spot on the right wing but the rest of the three-quarter-line is all changed. Gordon D'Arcy has mercifully recovered from injury and he'll partner Eoin O'Malley while Andrew Conway gets the nod over Fionn Carr on the left wing. Ian Madigan, boosted by an excellent display for Ireland last weekend, forms the half-back pairing with Isaac Boss, who has himself recovered from an ankle knock.

In the pack Sean Cronin is the only survivor in the front five and with four tries in his last two games, he'll be looking to continue that great attacking form. It's somewhat bizarre that Declan Kidney chose to mostly ignore that type of form, especially from the bench, during the championship. Heinke van der Merwe has recovered from injury and returns at loosehead prop and Michael Bent is preferred to Jamie Hagan at tighthead prop. Leo Cullen captains the team from the second row and Quinn Roux is back alongside him. The young South African's season has been destroyed by injury to date and he'll be desperate for an injury free run to show the crowd what they've been missing. Kevin McLaughlin is yet another player to return from injury and he forms a back row with Shane Jennings and Jordi Murphy. With all things considered, it's still a pretty strong Leinster side.

There's a lot to like about this Glasgow team at the moment. They have a quick and mobile pack, excellent halves and under-rated but consistent backs out wide. They play a pleasing brand of rugby too. However with Dublin deluged in rain for the past two days, they may have to alter their ambitious gameplan. It would be a shame if the match between the two most attacking teams in the league became another slog-fest like the meeting back in November. However the Dublin weather Gods have grown fond of ruining rugby matches of late, as Ireland fans will bitterly testify.

Hopefully the rain will relent though. If Leinster win their next two games over Glasgow and Ulster, they will be top of the table with three games to go and will have their fate in their own hands. It may be a bit of a grinder but hopefully Leinster will be able to reward the fans who brave the weather with a very important win.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Glasgow Warriors
Teams Isa Nacewa
15 Peter Murchie
Dave Kearney 14 Tommy Seymour
Eoin O'Malley
13 Alex Dunbar
Gordon D'Arcy
12 Peter Horne
Andrew Conway 11 DTH Van der Merwe
Ian Madigan
10 Duncan Weir
Isaac Boss 9 Niko Matawalu

Heinke van der Merwe 1 Moray Low
Sean Cronin
2 Dougie Hall
Michael Bent 3 Ed Kalman
Leo Cullen (C) 4 Tom Ryder
Quinn Roux
5 Al Kellock (C)
Kevin McLaughlin 6 Rob Harley
Shane Jennings 7 John Barclay
Jordi Murphy 8 Josh Strauss

Replacements Aaron Dundon
16 Pat MacArthur
Jack McGrath
17 Gordon Reid
Jamie Hagan 18 Jon Welsh
Devin Toner
19 James Eddie
Dominic Ryan
20 Ryan Wilson
John Cooney 21 Henry Pyrgos
Brendan Macken
22 Ruaridh Jackson
Fionn Carr
23 Sean Lamont
Not considered
due to injury
Richardt Strauss,
Damien Browne,
Adam Byrne,
Dan Leavy,
Edward Byrne,
Jordan Coghlan,
Jack Conan,
Eoin Reddan,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Jonathan Sexton,
Fergus McFadden
  Mike Cusack,
Chris Fusaro,
Finlay Gillies,
Stuart Hogg,
Sean Maitland,
Rory Lamont,
Chris Cusiter
Match Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Barry O'Connell (both IRFU),
4th Official: Andrew Baird (Leinster Rugby Referees),
5th Official: Alfie Acheson (Leinster Rugby Referees),
Dermot Moloney (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-03-22