Leinster are just one win away from securing home advantage in the inaugural Magners League semi-finals, but the odds are stacked against Michael Cheika’s young side defeating play-off chasers Glasgow Warriors in tonight’s clash at Firhill Stadium.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, April 23
GLASGOW WARRIORS (4th) v LEINSTER (1st), Firhill Stadium, 8pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Glasgow Warriors in Friday night’s Magners League encounter at Firhill Stadium will be led by hooker Bernard Jackman who is in named in a panel brimming with youthful promise.
Ireland Under-20 captain Rhys Ruddock starts in a pack alongside his older brother Ciaran Ruddock. The pair played together for the Irish U-20s last year.
The 19-year-old Rhys joins fellow Leinster Academy back rower Paul Ryan, who has impressed in recent weeks, in the back row, while Ciaran (21) will make his provincial debut in the second row alongside Trevor Hogan.
Jackman, Hogan and Mike Ross are the three Ireland internationals that feature in the pack, while Ireland Wolfhounds ace Fergus McFadden starts at centre alongside Eoin O’Malley.
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors have confirmed their team to play Leinster in the final home game of the league’s regulation phase.
The Warriors have made two changes, one enforced, to the team that defeated Ulster 25-18 at Firhill Stadium last weekend.
Scotland captain Chris Cusiter is given the nod at scrum half, with Mark McMillan dropping to the replacemnts bench.
Hefin O’Hare takes his place on the left wing as Canadian international DTH van der Merwe is unavailable due to a dead leg.
A new signing for next season, National Academy out-half Duncan Weir, has been named on the bench alongside former Ulster centre Rob Dewey who is fit again following a season plagued by injury.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Bernardo Stortoni; Colin Shaw, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Hefin O’Hare; Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter; Kevin Tkachuk, Fergus Thomson, Moray Low, Tim Barker, Alastair Kellock (capt), Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements: Dougie Hall, Ed Kalman, Dan Turner, Calum Forrester, Mark McMillan, Duncan Weir, Rob Dewey.
LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Simon Keogh, Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, Michael Keating; Paul O’Donohoe, Chris Keane; Ronan McCormack, Bernard Jackman (capt), Mike Ross, Trevor Hogan, Ciaran Ruddock, Rhys Ruddock, Paul Ryan, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Jack McGrath, Mark Flanagan, Dominic Ryan, David Moore, Kyle Tonetti/Brendan Macken, Andrew Conway.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Graham Allen (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Glasgow Warriors to win: 1/14; Draw: 35/1; Leinster to win: 6/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Rhys Ruddock (Leinster) – “If you told me at the start of the year that I would have the chance to play two full games for the senior team I would have taken that, so Friday’s game is another great opportunity for players like myself to try and make an impression.
“It’s also nice to be playing with Ciaran in the Magners League for the first time because we have played a lot together this season in the AIB League with UCD.
“We know that we’re up against it on Friday because Glasgow are a fantastic side. They have great power up front and their back row unit are well regarded.
“Their number 6, Kelly Brown, likes to carry a lot of ball and right across their back-line there’s a huge array of talent, superbly marshalled by Dan Parks at out-half.
“He pins teams back and punishes any errors so we’ll have to extra vigilant in our discipline this week.
“Max Evans has real pace out wide, while their full-back (Bernardo) Stortoni is another threat.
“There are a lot of changes to our team this week, but we’re going to approach this game in a positive manner. Training has been intense and even though we know we’re not favourites, it’s a challenge the boys are relishing.
“There’s a strong determination to uphold the traditions of the jersey and we’ll take confidence from the manner in which the team has ground out victories over the last few months.
“That shows a certain level of mental toughness, which is good. But the biggest objective for us this week is to stick to the game-plan even if there are spells when things are going against us.
“Friday presents an opportunity to show off all the hard work that has been done over the last few months and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) – “It’s a huge game for the club. We need to get the four points to keep moving up the table.
“There are just two games to go and we know that if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity then the season could come to a pretty quick end.
“The teams that win and do well are the teams that perform at their best at this time of year.
“We need to produce our best rugby to secure a place in the play-offs and the boys are feeling fresh, so I think we’re in a good place to do that.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Glasgow Warriors – Points: Dan Parks 184; Tries: Thom Evans 4; Leinster – Points: Jonathan Sexton 113; Tries: Rob Kearney, Isa Nacewa 3 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, April 6, 2007 – Glasgow Warriors 26 Leinster 20, Hughenden
Friday, October 12, 2007 – Glasgow Warriors 21 Leinster 17, Firhill Stadium
Friday, March 21, 2008 – Leinster 34 Glasgow Warriors 18, the RDS
Friday, October 24, 2008 – Glasgow Warriors 15 Leinster 12, Firhill Stadium
Saturday, April 25, 2009 – Leinster 36 Glasgow Warriors 13, the RDS
Thursday, March 18, 2010 – Leinster 20 Glasgow Warriors 14, the RDS
– Glasgow Warriors have won back-to-back matches in the Magners League against the Newport Gwent Dragons and Ulster
– Glasgow’s only defeat in their last seven encounters in all competitions at Firhill Stadium was a 30-7 loss to the Cardiff Blues in February
– The Warriors are going for a clean sweep of home wins against Irish opposition this season
– Table-topping Leinster’s seven-match winning streak in the Magners League was ended by Connacht on Wednesday. But they have won their last three games against Scottish opponents
– The last seven matches between these two teams have all been won by the home side on the day. Leinster’s most recent win in Glasgow was a 21-18 triumph at Firhill Stadium in the Magners League in May 2006