Beaten last time out in Llanelli, Leinster are under pressure to deliver an important win over GUINNESS PRO12 table toppers Glasgow Warriors as the race to reach the play-offs intensifies.
GUINNESS PRO12: Friday, March 27
LEINSTER (5th) v GLASGOW WARRIORS (1st), the RDS, 7.35pm (live TG4/BBC 2 Scotland)
Team News: Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor has made seven changes to the team that played the Scarlets most recently, with two of those changes in the backs and a further five in the forwards.
Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan, Martin Moore, Jordi Murphy, Sean Cronin, Cian Healy and Luke Fitzgerald are all included in the matchday 23 having featured in Ireland’s dramatic RBS 6 Nations win over Scotland last Saturday.
Zane Kirchner makes his 40th appearance in Leinster colours at full-back with Fergus McFadden selected on the right wing. Dave Kearney, who came off the bench in Llanelli, starts on the left wing.
Madigan slots in at inside centre with Ben Te’o outside him in the number 13 jersey having scored his first try for Leinster in the previous round.
Michael Bent and Richardt Strauss start at loosehead prop and hooker respectively, while Moore returns from international duty at tighthead.
Tom Denton and Mike McCarthy will lock down behind the front row, with Murphy, Shane Jennings and Jack Conan, who is set for his 12th start of the season, combining in the back row. Jennings will captain the side in his 205th game for Leinster.
Healy and Fitzgerald, who both started against Scotland, are listed among the replacements, while hooker Cronin, who played the last 20 minutes at Murrayfield, is also on the bench. Cronin will win his 90th cap for Leinster should he be brought on.
Meanwhile, for this round 18 trip to Dublin, Glasgow Warriors have welcomed back nine of their Scotland internationals who featured in the defeat to Ireland last weekend.
Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Finn Russell, Fraser Brown, Tim Swinson and Rob Harley have been named in the starting line-up, while Jonny Gray and Adam Ashe are both included on the bench.
Hogg returns at full-back, while Seymour comes in on the right wing and Canadian international DTH van der Merwe continues on the opposite side. Peter Horne and Mark Bennett form the centre partnership, with Russell coming in at out-half and Niko Matawalu retained at scrum half.
Alex Allan comes in at loosehead prop, Brown returns at hooker and after a number of stand-out performances for the Scotland Under-20s, Zander Fagerson starts his second game for the Warriors at tighthead.
Al Kellock captains the side for the 150th time in the second row, making his 154th appearance in a Warriors shirt. He will pack down with Tim Swinson in the engine room. Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Josh Strauss continue in the back row.
Scrum half Henry Pyrgos is named on the bench after recovering from a knee injury. He could make his first Warriors appearance since the narrow Champions Cup loss to Bath in January.
LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Fergus McFadden, Ben Te’o, Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss, Martin Moore, Tom Denton, Mike McCarthy, Jordi Murphy, Shane Jennings (capt), Jack Conan.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Ben Marshall, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Peter Horne, DTH van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Niko Matawalu; Alex Allan, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Al Kellock (capt), Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Mike Cusack, Jonny Gray, Adam Ashe, Henry Pyrgos, Connor Braid, Richie Vernon.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Kieran Barry (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)
Pre-Match Quotes: Leo Cullen (Leinster) – “Bath (in the Champions Cup) is a completely different challenge the week after. But for now we’re just focusing on Glasgow again. It’s a very important game for us. We’re just outside that top four at the moment. Glasgow are sitting top of the table.
“I think it’s great playing against a top team (before the European quarter-final). Glasgow are maybe in a similar situation to ourselves because they would’ve had to have managed their bodies coming out of Scotland camp as well.
“I know Glasgow do have a very big squad but it’s very hard to say exactly what they’re team is going to be. I’m not too sure exactly what the protocol is for their players getting released back from Scotland camp. They’ve got a lot of quality in their squad and it’s going to be a very big challenge for the lads that we send out.
“The next two weeks obviously are huge. Any quarter-final of Europe is going to be massive. And to have a team of the quality of Glasgow coming in here – where again it’s going to be a short turnaround, but as I mentioned it’s a similar sort of situation for them – it’s really good preparation into a massive quarter-final in the Aviva.
“We all get very excited about those challenges. It’s great playing a quarter-final in front of your home crowd and hopefully we’ll have huge support on the day and it’ll be a great occasion.”
Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors) – “We’re looking forward to returning to action after our recent break and we’ve been boosted this week by the return of our Scotland internationals. We’ve had some great battles with Leinster over the past few seasons and we’re expecting another one on Friday.
“It will be the first time we’ve returned to the RDS since last season’s final and we know we’ll need to play our best rugby if we’re to come away with a positive result against the defending champions.”
Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 113; Tries: Ian Madigan, Dominic Ryan 4 each; Glasgow Warriors – Points: Duncan Weir 65; Tries: DTH van der Merwe 6
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Saturday, September 6, 2014 – Glasgow Warriors 22 Leinster 20, Scotstoun Stadium
– Leinster’s only victory in their last five fixtures in all competitions was 29-8 against Zebre at the RDS in round 15 of the GUINNESS PRO12
– The Leinstermen have lost just once at home in their last nine encounters since October: 16-14 to the Newport Gwent Dragons in the PRO12 on February 15
– Glasgow Warriors’ only defeat in the last five rounds of PRO12 action was 22-10 in Munster in round 16
– The Warriors have won only once away from home in the league since round 5: 54-10 on a trip to Zebre on February 15
– Glasgow were victorious (22-20) when the two sides met at Scotstoun Stadium in round 1 and have never before achieved a season’s double over Leinster, while the Warriors’ only previous victory on Leinster soil was 23-19 at the RDS in the PRO12 on September 17, 2011