Glasgow All Set For Dublin Showdown

Glasgow Warriors travel to Dublin to face Leinster in the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs tomorrow and Gregor Towsend has made seven changes and one positional switch to the side that beat Connacht 20-3 in Galway last week.

Peter Horne moves from inside centre to fly-half, with Ruaridh Jackson dropping to the bench, in a move that might be seen as a surprise. Jackson excels when allowed to dictate the pace of a game from the start. Coming on to chase one is not his area of expertise. Still, Horne has impressed in his brief stints at first receiver and Stuart Hogg will no doubt take a ball or two, as well as potentially resuming the kicking duties having nailed a couple from out wide last weekend. Goal kicking is probably Glasgow’s main area of concern tomorrow night.

Alex Dunbar comes in too, with Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Niko Matawalu, Josh Strauss, Al Kellock and Ryan Grant also back in the starting XV.

Townsend restores his first choice, 2/3rds Lions back three as Hogg replaces Peter Murchie at full-back, Sean Maitland comes in for Tommy Seymour on the right wing, with the clubs all-time leading try scorer DTH van der Merwe keeping his place on the left flank.

The Warriors have the highest try count of any team this season in the RaboDirect PRO12, with 66. It is the third highest amount of tries scored in a single season since the Celtic League was formed in 2001. If the midfield can put them clear then there is plenty of firepower to add to that tally.

After signing a new deal this week to keep him at Scotstoun until 2015, the mad genius Niko Matawalu starts ahead of Henry Pyrgos at scrum-half.

Jon Welsh keeps his place at tight head, with Ryan Grant coming in at loose head in place of Moray Low and Pat MacArthur continuing at hooker.

Captain Al Kellock is back in the side after missing the game against Connacht and he will partner Tim Swinson in the second-row.

Josh Strauss comes in for Rob Harley at blind-side, with Barclay starting at open-side and Ryan Wilson at number eight.

After signing a one-year deal this week, hooker Fraser Brown starts on the bench for the Warriors, with Dougie Hall out injured. Glasgow also have Ed Kalman, Moray Low, Tom Ryder, Rob Harley, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson and Mark Bennett in reserve.

Gregor Townsend said: “Leinster have set the benchmark in European rugby for the last three or four seasons and we are under no illusions as to the size of the challenge that awaits us in Dublin.

“We narrowly lost to Leinster in March but we were pleased with a number of aspects of our game that night. We’ve improved since then and we’re really looking forward to another opportunity to play at the RDS.”

That night, Glasgow had a nearly full strength team while Leinster rested their big names. This time there is no such luck as both sides have fielded their strongest possible first XVs. Leinster might edge the battle on the bench too, which makes them favourites to go through.

Although this is the Warriors second successive appearance in the play-offs and it’s a repeat of last year’s fixture at this stage when they were narrowly beaten 19-15 by Leinster at the RDS, Townsend’s brand of Glasgow have never been here before.

Previous incarnations have failed to turn up but this Glasgow squad is littered with ball-players of all ages, strike runners, and a physical, experienced pack. In short, it could be the real deal.

Now all they have to do is prove it to the people of Dublin.

Leinster: R Kearney, F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S O’Brien/S Jennings; J Heaslip
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, J Hagan, Q Roux, S Jennings/R Ruddock, J Cooney, I Madigan, A Conway

Glasgow: S Hogg, S Maitland, S Lamont, A Dunbar, DTH Van der Merwe, P Horne, N Matawalu, R Grant, P MacArthur, J Welsh, T Swinson, A Kellock (capt), J Strauss, J Barclay, R Wilson.
Replacements: F Brown, M Low, E Kalman, T Ryder, R Harley, H Pyrgos, R Jackson, M Bennett.

Referee: P Gauzere (FFR, 4th competition game)

Assistant referees: M Mitrea, G Vivarini (both FIR)

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