Saturday May 25, 2019
KO 18:30 (UK)
Celtic Park, Glasgow
It’s been a long season, but when you get here, it seems like only yesterday that we set out. After hammering Ulster at Scotstoun last weekend, Glasgow move not far down the road to welcome champions Leinster to Celtic Park. Both sides are into Europe next year and at season’s end – the only thing left to chase is the trophy, and glory.
The visitors have restored Johnny Sexton to the starting XV to lead a classy looking back line, while in the pack Scott Fardy comes in to replace the injured Devin Toner.
Dave Rennie has named an unchanged Warriors team; in fact the only change to the match day squad is Siua Halanukonuka coming on to the bench for D’arcy Rae.
It’s a show of faith indeed, and also perhaps still lays them open to worries about second row cover with no direct replacement on the bench, even if Leinster are without Devin Toner themselves. Thomas Gordon starts just his fifth PRO14 match while Kyle Steyn is still keeping Huw Jones on the woodwork.
Still, you’ve got to think if Glasgow are going to do it in front of a 40,000+ home crowd, then this is the side to do so based on last weekend’s performance. There are few players who you could argue should be included ahead of these men – Niko Matawalu is one of the few notable absences from the 23 but may be soothed slightly by a recall to the Fijian World Cup training squad.
Their form in recent weeks has been irresistible even if Leinster in knockout mode will be a far harder challenge than any they have faced in the PRO14 this season.
Arguments such as the ones from Matt Williams in the Irish Times will hopefully be proven moot given the considerable change in mindset, even in the short weeks since the Saracens drubbing that kicked them out of the Champions Cup.
The plan has become a furious focus on better execution allied to a desire to repeat again, straight away. Glasgow are looking to become not only ferociously talented, but relentless with it. The leap forward in Jonny Gray’s game has been long overdue, as has the welcome return of the Tommy Seymour and Ali Price that we know and love.
There are numerous fascinating matchups throughout the team – Sexton vs Hastings, Henshaw vs Johnson, Healy vs Fagerson, and so on.
It is also Stuart Hogg’s last game for Glasgow as well as perhaps a mini warm-up for that match on September 22nd when a number of these players will meet again.
There are plenty of mini stories, but for the Glasgow players and the Warrior Nation, the plan is simple.
We go again.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, DTH Van Der Merwe, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Callum Gibbins (capt), Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Oli Kebble, Siua Halanukonuka, Ryan Wilson, Tom Gordon, George Horne, Pete Horne, Huw Jones.
Unavailable players: Bruce Flockhart (shoulder), Chris Fusaro (hamstring), Matt Smith (shoulder), Tim Swinson (ankle) and George Turner (head)
Leinster: Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Seán Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Scott Fardy, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Ross Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 180th Championship game)
Assistant Referee 1: Mike Adamson (SRU)
Assistant Referee 2: Johnny Lacey (IRFU)
Television Match Official: Ian Davies (WRU)