The meeting of title holders Leinster and Glasgow Warriors in a repeat of last season’s PRO12 final could light up the opening round, with Sky Sports featuring the Celtic clash on their Saturday evening schedule.
GUINNESS PRO12: Saturday, September 6
GLASGOW WARRIORS v LEINSTER, Scotstoun Stadium, 5.15pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD)
Team News: Isaac Boss is in line to become the first player to represent two Irish provinces 100 times when he features for Leinster against Glasgow Warriors on Saturday in the first round of the GUINNESS PRO12.
After 108 appearances for Ulster, it was against this weekend’s opposition Glasgow – but in Firhill – that Boss made his Leinster debut in September 2010 with an 80-minute try scoring display.
He went on to play a further 28 times for Leinster in that debut season, scoring a further three PRO12 tries and added to a memorable first year with a Heineken Cup medal from the final against Northampton.
This weekend he lines out in the familiar number 9 jersey, with Jimmy Gopperth outside him in what is Leinster’s first competitive fixture after two pre-season friendlies against Northampton Saints and Ulster.
In the pack, Sean Cronin makes a welcome return after undergoing surgery earlier in the summer, with his Ireland colleagues Cian Healy and Mike Ross either side of him.
In the second row, Ben Marshall starts his first PRO12 game since February 2013 after an injury-ravaged season last year, whilebeside him Mike McCarthy is starting his second season with Leinster.
Having led the team out last weekend at Tallaght Stadium, Sean O’Brien is once again selected to captain the side from the base of the scrum and flankers Dominic Ryan and Shane Jennings complete the back row.
Noel Reid and Brendan Macken start in the centre, hoping to take their end of season British & Irish Cup form with them into this year’s PRO12.
St Mary’s clubman Darragh Fanning starts on the left wing with Fergus McFadden stationed on the right and Zane Kirchner, who scored five tries in his debut season, starting at full-back.
Meanwhile, Rob Harley will become Glasgow Warriors’ latest centurion when he makes his 100th appearance for the club in this season’s league opener.
The Scotland flanker played in every PRO12 game last season as the Warriors reached the final, with Leinster beating them 34-12 in the Dublin decider in May.
Peter Murchie, who has played in both of the Warriors’ pre-season fixtures, continues at full-back, with Tommy Seymour and Lee Jones on either wing.
Mark Bennett and Alex Dunbar form the centre partnership, with Peter Horne selected at out-half and Henry Pyrgos getting the nod at scrum half.
Alex Allan makes his competitive debut for the club at loosehead prop after joining from Edinburgh, while Fraser Brown has been handed his first start in a Glasgow jersey at hooker. Scotland’s Euan Murray is named at tighthead having returned to Glasgow in the summer.
Fijian Leone Nakarawa and Scotland cap Jonny Gray will combine in the second row, while the back row is made up of blindside Harley, Chris Fusaro at openside and Josh Strauss will lead the team from number 8 in the absence of club captain Al Kellock, who is recovering from injury.
Stuart Hogg and Sean Lamont are both included on the Glasgow bench after their involvement in the Commonwealth Games in July.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones; Peter Horne, Henry Pyrgos; Alex Allan, Fraser Brown, Euan Murray, Leone Nakarawa, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Josh Strauss (capt).
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Gordon Reid, Rossouw de Klerk, Tim Swinson, Adam Ashe, Niko Matawalu, Stuart Hogg, Sean Lamont.
LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Darragh Fanning; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Ben Marshall, Mike McCarthy, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien (capt).
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Tom Denton, Kevin McLaughlin, Luke McGrath, Ian Madigan, Michael McGrath.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Neil Paterson, Bob Nevins (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Glasgow Warriors to win: 13/10; Draw: 18/1; Leinster to win: 4/7
Pre-Match Quotes: Isaac Boss (Leinster) – “The last few weeks I’ve been itching to get going. The last two pre-season games have been good – a little bit of rustiness out and a lot of guys have been coming and going off the pitch, so it’ll be good to get a little bit of regularity, and hopefully strengthen combinations and really bring the result on Saturday.
“Our strength & conditioning staff have done a great job. We think we’re peaking at the right time.
“Last weekend’s match against Ulster was – we definitely noticed – a step up in intensity and physicality from the week before. It was a typical, tight pre-season match.
“We blew out a few cobwebs and tried a few things that worked and a few things that didn’t work as well. That’s what we’ve got to use to make sure we push forward through these next few games now and try and get a bit of momentum going into the season.
“(Ourselves and Glasgow) have both got high aspirations in this league and we’re both very competitive. I expect a tight battle (on Saturday), a good battle, and hopefully we can be on the right end of it.”
Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors) – “We’re looking forward to hosting the defending champions at Scotstoun in front of our own supporters. It was a great achievement for the club to reach the PRO12 final in May, but ultimately we were disappointed to lose – although it was a very close game up until the final quarter.
“This is now a new season and a fresh start for all the clubs and we know we’ll have to be at our very best to get a positive result on Saturday.
“Our games with Leinster have always been very tight and competitive and we’re expecting another big test against a top quality side.
“I’d like to congratulate Rob Harley, who is set to make his 100th appearance for the club. He’s been ever consistent for us over the last few years and thoroughly deserves to join our group of centurions.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Glasgow Warriors – Points: Finn Russell 101; Tries: Niko Matawalu 7; Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 170; Tries: Noel Reid 7
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, November 23, 2012 – Glasgow Warriors 0 Leinster 6, Scotstoun Stadium
Sunday, March 23, 2013 – Leinster 22 Glasgow Warriors 17, the RDS
Saturday, May 11, 2013 – Semi-final – Leinster 17 Glasgow Warriors 15, the RDS
Friday, September 20, 2013 – Glasgow Warriors 12 Leinster 6, Scotstoun Stadium
Saturday, March 1, 2014 – Leinster 28 Glasgow Warriors 25, the RDS
Saturday, May 31, 2014 – Final – Leinster 34 Glasgow Warriors 12, the RDS
– This game sees a meeting of the same protagonists who met in last season’s final in Dublin when Leinster stopped Glasgow Warriors’ record nine-match winning run in the competition
– The Warriors have won their last eight games at Scotstoun in all competitions since Toulon were the visitors on January 18 last
– Only one Irish side has won at Scotstoun since November 2012 (Munster did so in October of last year)
– Reigning champions Leinster have won their last five matches since slipping up at the Ospreys in round 19 last season
– This is the seventh successive year that Leinster have begun their GUINNESS PRO12 campaign away from home
– The Leinstermen lost on both of their visits to Scotland last season, and did not score a try
– Glasgow’s only victory in their last ten encounters with Leinster in all competitions was 12-6 in this equivalent fixture in round 3 last season