Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


The Glasgow Team for RaboDirect PRO12 Final

So Gregor Townsend has put his thinking cap on and come up with this, what he believes the team that gives Glasgow the best chance of a first ever league title. There are some big calls but few would argue this is probably the best team available to him…

15. Peter Murchie – right out of the box this will set tongues wagging with no sign of Stuart Hogg anywhere near the 23. Certain to add fuel to the rumours of the young man’s discontent and intended departure (despite being under contract for another year) to possibly Ulster or Saracens. Murchie though is the form player, having taken his chance when Hogg was banned post-Six Nations and holding his place in the team. Solid, if less dynamic than Hogg. A reassuring presence at the back which is what you want with Brian O’Driscoll looking to make his retirement a glorious one.

14. Sean Maitland – coming back to his Lions form at just the right time. One of those players who is maybe not quite as prolific as you thought he might be, but when he is finding space on almost every carry with that lazy stride of his, he provides an important contribution to Glasgow’s momentum.

13. Alex Dunbar – possibly harsh on Mark Bennett who has been very impressive this season and who will find himself on Sevens duty at Ibrox instead of the Summer tour but if fit, Dunbar was always going to play. A big game player and the ideal man to try and shackle O’Driscoll in his Scotland position of 13, although he could play 12 also.

12. Pete Horne – back fit and providing a NZ style second creative spark in the centre. Scott Johnson might fancy his inside centres bulkier but Horne is there on merit and creates a second axis for Glasgow to play off.

11. Tommy Seymour – one of the few playing this match, the Scotland tour and the Commonwealth Sevens. In proper scoring form and probably in good-enough enough shape to keep scoring machine Tim Visser out of the Scotland team – assuming Maitland and Hogg were your others, and that’s not for certain either…

10. Finn Russell – a big call but you won’t find anyone outside of the Weir and Jackson households who would disagree that the young fly-half is there entirely on merit. If he emerges from this game with credit it will cap one of those meteoric rises we so rarely see in the conservative world of Scottish Rugby.

9. Chris Cusiter – could give Scotland’s best scrum-half the perfect end to his time at Glasgow as he heads off to Sale. Despite rare appearances this season has probably seen him look the fittest and play the best rugby of his career. Will be key in keeping Glasgow moving.

1. Gordon Reid – like Murchie, another Lion is displaced by the form player, which is nothing if not refreshing. Could go on to have a storming summer if he can keep Mike Ross in the shade and maybe even grab another try?

2. Dougie Hall – lot of MacArthur fans may be disappointed but Hall perhaps holds the edge in the scrums.

3. Jon Welsh – looks to have overtaken Low in the pecking order and this may be replicated at Scotland level. Will need to be at his sharpest against Cian Healy.

4. Jonny Gray – no real doubt about this, the young pretender lining up again alongside his mentor… Will need a big ball carrying performance once again. But he’s been doing it all season, grafting in a way that his brother is often (unfairly) criticised for not doing. Swinson had a big tour last summer and Gray could be that mean this year.

5. Al Kellock (capt) – the best leader Scotland has would never miss out on a game of this magnitude. He’ll most probably go out there hell for leather looking to do to Devin Toner what he dished out to Paul O’Connell in the semi at full throttle for as long as he can. A capable replacement in Tim Swinson waits on the bench should Big Al burn himself out.

6. Rob Harley – Townsend’s choices in the back row must have been harder than anywhere else so this ideally should represent the blend he feels best to take on Leinster. Harley is Glasgow’s player of the season and his hard tackling will contrast nicely with Fuzzy scrapping on the deck and Strauss pushing the team forward.

7. Chris Fusaro – another fine season for the openside who finally picked up his first cap. Against streetwise Leinster who always ride the fine line between infringing and getting away with it, this will be the sternest test of his year to secure and steal ball.

8. Josh Strauss – he’s kept Glasgow going forward all season and it would take an earthquake to stop him doing it again at the RDS. Somehow he manages to get through bodies time after time, and even against stern defences those yards are invaluable. After this he can enjoy a well-earned holiday, although few would bet against him missing his holidays next year if he gets called up to Scotland duty just in time for the World Cup.

Replacements: 16. Pat MacArthur, 17. Ryan Grant, 18. Moray Low, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. Leone Nakarawa, 21. Niko Matawalu, 22. Ruaridh Jackson, 23. Sean Lamont

A strong international bench, and this could well be key. Let’s not forget that if you need a game changed, there may well be no-one in Europe better than Niko Matawalu for that…

Leinster Team:
15: Rob Kearney, 14: Fergus McFadden, 13: Brian O’Driscoll, 12: Gordon D’Arcy, 11: Zane Kirchner, 10: Jimmy Gopperth, 9: Eoin Reddan; 1: Cian Healy, 2: Sean Cronin, 3: Mike Ross, 4: Devin Toner, 5: Mike McCarthy, 6: Rhys Ruddock, 7: Shane Jennings, 8: Jamie Heaslip (capt)

16: Aaron Dundon, 17: Jack McGrath, 18: Martin Moore, 19: Leo Cullen, 20: Sean O’Brien, 21: Isaac Boss, 22: Ian Madigan, 23: Darragh Fanning

RaboDirect PRO12 Final, RDS, Dublin, Saturday 31 May (kick-off 6.15pm) – live on BBC ALBA & BBC TWO Scotland

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges, Ian Davies (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini (FIR)
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

13 Responses

  1. It must have been a nightmare call between Horne and Bennett, who can consider himself to be very unlucky not to be playing. Reid has outplayed Grant recently, so that is fair enough. Hogg, well its all been said and I don’t really think we will miss him, Murchie has been outstanding recently.

  2. Good preview Rory – I think Toonie has been pragmatic and pretty sensible and Glasgow have a great chance tomorrow. I genuinely think they have nothing to fear from Leinster but with home advantage you might make them slight favourites.

    A couple of comments:

    I hope Hogg goes to Saracens. We shouldn’t be offloading players to domestic rivals and the Saracens changing room is famously tight so should knock any attitude problems out of him.

    I am really disappointed Bennett hasn’t been called up for the summer tour. He definitely has a role to play at the world cup even as a squad member to play against the weaker sides in our pool, so should be getting international exposure not messing around with 7s. He is a potential star and needs to be developed properly, I’m not sure where the 7s fits into that.

    I’m not sure Horne has few caps because SJ prefers bigger players. It is just that when he is selected he is immediately injured, such as before last years 6N and almost straight away on the SA tour. I think Horne is well on Scotland’s radar even if Scott remains the man in possession of the 12 shirt.

    Tommy Seymour this year has been an absolute revelation. Russel also – let’s hope he doesn’t get second season syndrome as he looks very much like Scotland’s WC fly half.

    Good pack – they have a back row balance Scotland have woefully lacked, big ball carriers to make hard yards and are solid at the set piece. Can’t wait to see Nico and Nakarawa galloping on in the second half.

    I reckon Glasgow will start fast, get a lead and struggle to hold it. Fingers crossed they have the wherewithal to get over the line unlike Ulster who faded badly once Jackson went off.

  3. Thanks for posting this so quickly Rory. It’s a strong team and bench no doubt about that and we will find out tomorrow evening whether it was good enough to beat this Leinster side. One point I want to make is the total lack of clarity on the Stuart Hogg situation. If he’s fit he plays (in my opinion the obvious player at 15, Murchie in form or not)so the fact he’s not even in the squad and not listed as injured means there obviously is more to it, something all of us are second guessing but why are we left in the dark?. I made the point a couple of weeks ago that even if he is leaving now for Ulster or wherever, he isn’t gone yet and should be in the squad at least, so how come the Warriors management can’t “manage” this situation better. How come it has reached the point where our one truly dynamic game changer has not been considered for the two biggest games in Warrior’s history? Why are we left guessing and why can’t any Scottish rugby journo simply asking Townshend what the hell is going on?
    It’s simple “Why has he been dropped?!!!”

    1. Did Glasgow beat Munster without him? Answer is yes. Can they beat Leinster without him? Answer is yes. What form has he shown since the six nations? Answer is none. Does Townsend answer to you? Answer is no.

      Where does it say the coach has to explain every selection he makes? I don’t think Townsend owes anyone an explanation. Its a big call, but only time will tell if it is right.

      Do you not think that going on about it could perhaps undermine Peter Murchie’s confidence that he was picked on merit rather than because of some imagined conspiracy?

  4. Well, this selection was never going to lack controversy!

    Perhaps deal with the easier ones first:

    (i) Low over Cross – a reversal of the pecking order that finished the 6Ns, and the on loan doc may well feel hard done by; but I’d expect Low in his final appearance for the Warriors and playing his 150th game for the club to get the job done when he comes on

    (ii) Jackson over Weir – is this a reward for form? In which case, is Toonie experiencing any regret over letting the former go while holding on to the latter? You’ve got to wonder. Delighted that Russell is first choice, as one suspects he will be (and for the national team?) for years to come

    (iii) Horne over Bennett – altho they’re not directly competing for the same shirt, I guess that once Toonie had decided that he wanted to play with the extra distribution options of a second five-eighth, then Horne is ideally suited for that role, and Dunbar reverts back to his Scotland position at outside centre leaving no room for the Messiah. Disappointed for the lad, and his not going on at least one stage of the summer tour is just plain daft

    and that’s it.

    Just kidding!

    (iv) Murchie over Hogg: it’s just hard to believe that there isn’t more to this than rewarding Murchie’s form and consistency throughout the season, even with Toonie insisting in the press conference that Hogg will be playing in a Warriors shirt next season (god forbid that he meant Worcester). As for the thought of him going to Sarries, sorry, can’t stand them and am still struggling to forgive Kelly Brown – he should go somewhere like Exeter with their young exciting former England U20 backline coming thru – and Rob Baxter would make sure he stays firmly on the rails

    1. Wouldn’t you rather Hogg plays HC rugby next year than player for a AP also-ran team like Exeter?

  5. Despite the controversy of who Townsend has picked, you have to applaud him for the guts he has had to make these tough decisions leaving out crucial players. He is one of the few coaches this country has had in the past decade that has taken the risk to pick form over everything else, unlike Johnson or Robinson before him. Also, with this squad rotation, he has developed a strong depth in the squad and with players having to actually fight for their position every week, they can only improve. Glasgow certainly have the quality to beat Leinster and with two of the strongest defences going against each other, it is going to be a tough game. Russell certainly looks like the fly-half that will take us forward post RWC, but every kick will be crucial tomorrow and we just have to hope that he is in the right mentality to get those game changing kicks. A win tomorrow would be a huge step forward for Scottish rugby and it will really set us up for next season.

  6. Good assessment Rory – could you submit your copy to the Scottish press ? – it would be refreshing to read some deductive thinking in the Herald rather than the churn it turns out. I took the decision some 11 years ago (when we played at Hughenden the first time and wore black and purple) that I could best support the pro game by buying a season ticket and have done so from the days I was grateful for Connaught (because there was one side to finish lower)through the Lineen years until now. I’m flying out tomorrow with my sons and a great sense of pride in what the city and the Warriors have built over a number of years. Winning would be wonderful but to be consistently competitive is the achievement in my view. We have a real chance in this final and a big factor is the confidence we can place in the selection. Townsend has shown this in his management particularly over the last third of this season – and some of this has been inspirational. Hogg is a regret, a very talented player, but his pique over his ‘hat-trick’ try was a let down – now unfortunately he’s behaving like a footballer touting himself while under contract. This needs firm management and that’s what he’s getting.
    Anyway, more positively, lets hope young Finn keeps his head still, the kicks go over, passes are held and the Mighty Reid gets the call and has a run in from 30m with half of Leinster in his wake as he turns to give the shooogle to the Anglesea Stand.

  7. Murchie is starting entirely on merit. He’s been fantastic since he’s returned from injury. He’s a better last line of defence than Hogg, and much more secure under the high ball. I agree Stu is much more dangerous with the ball in hand, but with the rest of that backline, its not as much of an issue. I’d even go as far as to say he may be ahead in the pecking order for the Scotland 15 jersey. Niko and Maitland can both play full back as well, hence he doesn’t get a bench spot. That said, I would have had him on the bench at least. There are a lot of Glasgow players who can feel hard done to, not just Hogg. It’s just a sign of how strong our squad has become.

  8. As I understand it,Ulster have just signed Louis Ludik a south African fullback and their last foreign place so it looks like Hogg won’t be going there next year.I agree with an earlier post if he even is leaving that going to Saracens might not be a bad thing!

  9. Congratulations to Glasgow players coaches and managers for the season 2014. A great style of rugby, great application and a great club feeling that I was lucky enough to experience last weekend

    One last step to greatness and good luck to Matt Taylor who I believe would be the first coach to win Super XV and Rabo Pro 12 if the Warriors pull it off

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion