Glasgow Warriors go into their game against Connacht at the Sportsground tomorrow knowing that if they win and other results go their way they could become the first Scottish side to secure a home play-off in the RaboDirect PRO12.
Gregor Townsend has made nine personnel changes to the team that beat the Ospreys 35-17 at Scotstoun last month, for the final game of the regular season. The Ospreys have fielded a weakened back division but a strong pack for their match against Leinster which needs to see the hosts overturned for Glasgow to profit.
British & Irish Lions pair Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland drop to the bench, along with Glasgow’s player of the season Niko Matawalu, Ryan Grant and Josh Strauss. Keeping the powder dry for sure, but ready to burn it late on if required – the Warriors have made a habit of late spurts and will be hoping for another to see them to a first win at the Sportsground since 2007.
“Connacht are enjoying a great run of form at the moment, having lost just twice in their last seven games, so it will be an extremely tough game for us, but one we’re all looking forward to” said head coach Townsend.
Ruaridh Jackson comes in for the injured Weir at fly half and Henry Pyrgos replaces Matawalu at scrum half, in a sign that this game could be a little more tactical than the harum-scarum style that suits Matawalu. Across from them lurks Glasgow legend Dan Parks, who will be looking to spoil the party.
Club captain Al Kellock drops out of the squad for the trip to Ireland as his wife has just given birth, so Tim Swinson and Tom Ryder combine in the second row while the able Ryan Wilson is given the captaincy and comes in at number eight. John Barclay keeps his place at open-side following a return to his best that should see him tour to South Africa if nowhere else this summer,
The Warriors are third in the RaboDirect PRO12, one point behind second-placed Leinster and four points behind leaders Ulster.
Glasgow Warriors team to play Connacht in Round 22 of the RaboDirect PRO12, Sportsground, Friday 3 May (kick-off 7.45pm):
Glasgow Warriors: P Murchie, T Seymour, S Lamont, P Horne, DTH Van der Merwe; R Jackson, H Pyrgos; M Low, P MacArthur, J Welsh, T Swinson, T Ryder, R Harley, J Barclay, R Wilson (captain).
Replacements: D Hall, R Grant, E Kalman, J Eddie, J Strauss, N Matawalu, S Maitland, S Hogg.
Dickinson Returns to Edinburgh
Speaking of club legends, this weekend Chunk starts his last game for Edinburgh they’ve moved swiftly to bring in Scotland prop Alasdair Dickinson who will return to Edinburgh Rugby on a one-year deal this summer.
The 29-year-old loose-head first joined the club as an apprentice in 2004 and made 55 appearances before moving to the English Premiership in 2007.
In four seasons at Gloucester he reached the league playoffs twice (final in 2007 and semi-final in 2008) and the Heineken Cup quarter-final in 2008, before signing for Sale Sharks three years later.
Dickinson is the third internationalist signed by the club for next season, with Tongan hooker Aleki Lutui and Scotland wing Nikki Walker also committed to bring their extensive experience to Murrayfield this summer. Most recently he was very impressive in the A Team match against England Saxons earlier in the year and his athletic style should suit Edinburgh’s pacy game.
Interim Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Stevie Scott, said: “Alasdair is a quality, international rugby player in a key position.
“He’s someone I’ve worked with for a long time, bringing him from Gloucester to Sale for two years, and am now looking forward to working with him again.”
Sky Grab Rabo Rights
In a move that will cause problems for Sky’s pundits who love nothign more than talking up England, the Murdoch-owned Sports Broadcaster have snapped up rights to screen RaboDirect PRO12 matches from the start of the 2014/15 season.
The agreement will last for four years, with the broadcaster showing 30 live matches as well as the Play-Offs and Final.
John Feehan, Chief Executive said: “The RaboDirect PRO12 features the top teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy. Our competition is thriving with increased numbers going through the turnstiles as well as increased TV audiences.
“The quality of our competition is such that 24 out of the 37 players selected for the 2013 Lions Tour to Australia play in the RaboDirect PRO12.
“We believe that this agreement with Sky will allow us to bring our tournament to an even bigger television audience.
“This is a milestone for Celtic Rugby as it is our first ever Network coverage deal in the UK and Ireland.”
Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said: “We know European rugby is hugely popular with our viewers and this deal provides for even more fantastic action.”
Celtic Rugby are still in negotiations with other broadcasters and will be announcing further agreements in due course. You imagine that BBC2 Wales/S4C won’t give up their mandate so there’s hope for the Swedish Chef (aka BBC Alba) yet.
It remains to be seen if this will make Celtic rugby more accessible – it has been brilliant this season to see almost all the games free to air – or just better funded.