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GUINNESS PRO12 Semi-Final Preview: Glasgow Warriors v Ulster

GUINNESS PRO12 Semi-Final Preview: Glasgow Warriors v Ulster

Ulster’s three previous GUINNESS PRO12 visits to Scotstoun Stadium have all ended in defeat, but with a reinforced starting line-up the province looked well placed to gain revenge on Glasgow Warriors in Friday’s semi-final showdown.


GLASGOW WARRIORS (1st) v ULSTER (4th), Scotstoun Stadium, 7.45pm (live Sky Sports 3 HD/BBC 2 Northern Ireland/TG4/BBC ALBA/RTÉ 2fm)

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Team News: Ulster head coach Neil Doak has made 11 changes to the side that lost to Glasgow Warriors last weekend for Friday night’s GUINNESS PRO12 semi-final against the same opposition at Scotstoun Stadium.

Ten internationals come back into a side that boasts 304 Test caps, with only Louis Ludik, Ricky Lutton, Lewis Stevenson and Chris Henry retained from the province’s starting line-up for last Saturday’s round 22 fixture.

Ludik starts at full-back with Ireland and Lions winger Tommy Bowe resuming on the right wing. The PRO12’s joint top try scorer this season, Craig Gilroy, returns from injury to take his place on the left flank.

Jared Payne and Darren Cave link up again in the centre, with Paddy Jackson named at out-half and Springbok Ruan Pienaar coming back in at scrum half.

Up front, captain Rory Best is joined by Emerging Ireland props Callum Black and Lutton in the front row.

Stevenson and Dan Tuohy are selected in the second row with Iain Henderson, Henry, last week’s stand-in skipper, and Roger Wilson forming an all-Ireland international back-row.

Rob Herring, who was cleared of foul play by a PRO12 disciplinary committee yesterday, is selected as a replacement, as are fellow forwards Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy. Backs Paul Marshall, Stuart McCloskey and Michael Allen complete the matchday squad.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors boss Gregor Townsend has made two personnel changes and one positional switch to the side that defeated the Ulstermen 32-10 last time out.
The Warriors finished top of the GUINNESS PRO12 table for the first time in the club’s history and are unbeaten at home in the league since November 2013.
With a crowd of around 10,000 expected, the semi-final will be the final home match for Al Kellock, Niko Matawalu and DTH van der Merwe, with the Canadian international named among the replacements and set to return from injury.

Kellock, who will captain Glasgow once again having led the club for the last nine years, is set to retire at the end of the season.
Coming into the side from last week is scrum half Henry Pyrgos and after being named McCrea Financial Services Player of the Season at the club’s Awards dinner, Matawalu moves from scrum half to the left wing in place of Sean Lamont.
In the forwards Fraser Brown returns to the starting pack after recovering from a hamstring injury. He replaces Dougie Hall at hooker.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Richie Vernon, Peter Horne, Niko Matawalu; Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos; Ryan Grant, Fraser Brown, Rossouw de Klerk, Jonny Gray, Al Kellock (capt), Josh Strauss, Chris Fusaro, Adam Ashe.
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Gordon Reid, Mike Cusack, Leone Nakarawa, Ryan Wilson, Duncan Weir, Sean Lamont, DTH van der Merwe.

ULSTER: Louis Ludik; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Darren Cave, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best (capt), Ricky Lutton, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Paul Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Michael Allen.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey, Dudley Phillips (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Glasgow Warriors to win: 8/13; Draw: 18/1; Ulster to win: 11/8

Pre-Match Quotes: Rory Best (Ulster) – “Obviously we are going there as underdogs. Glasgow are a quality side. Scotstoun is a tough place to go and play. Having said that, we have a lot of confidence in this group of players. We know that we can perform in the big games and really Friday night has to be one of those big performances from us.

“For 60 minutes (last week) we played well. The flip side is that you saw that Glasgow, with a bit of momentum and a bit of ball, are very, very dangerous. The lesson for us is that we have to keep the ball and own it and when they have the ball we have to stop their momentum.

“We were so battered after the Munster game that players couldn’t play the next week. Guys were either injured or if we could have wheeled them out onto the pitch, they wouldn’t have been able to play this weekend. We took a decision on a couple of players.

“Ultimately, we will see at half nine on Friday night if that was the right decision. We feel fairly ready for this game. We are under no illusions as to how difficult it is going to be, but we’ve a lot of faith when we turn up and when we play and play well that we can beat anyone and that is going to be tested to the limit on Friday night.

“When the final was first announced, you allow yourself to imagine what the game would be like and what the atmosphere would be like. As the game has got closer and the games have got bigger, when you come into them and you are already looking ahead, you’re going to get beaten and you’re going to get beaten well. For us it really is about one game at a time.

“We have to go out and take the win. We can’t wait for Glasgow to hand it to us. They want to be in a final just as much as we do. The fact that it is at Kingspan Stadium, just a week after the game isn’t going to be enough. We have to go out and make sure we perform.”

Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors) – “It will be a big challenge facing one of the best sides in Europe for the second time in a week and it’s knockout rugby now, so we know what’s at stake.

“We’ve had some epic battles with Ulster over the last few seasons and they’ll be eager to reverse the scoreline from last week.

“On Friday night we expect to be playing in front of another sell-out crowd at Scotstoun for a place in another final and everyone at the club is really looking forward to the match.”

Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Glasgow Warriors – Points: Peter Horne 99; Tries: Peter Horne, Niko Matawalu, DTH van der Merwe 6 each; Ulster – Points: Ruan Pienaar 93; Tries: Craig Gilroy 11


Friday, August 31, 2012 – Ulster 18 Glasgow Warriors 10, Ravenhill
Friday, February 22, 2013 – Glasgow Warriors 20 Ulster 14, Scotstoun Stadium
Friday, September 13, 2013 – Ulster 12 Glasgow Warriors 13, Ravenhill
Friday, April 18, 2014 – Glasgow Warriors 27 Ulster 9, Scotstoun Stadium
Saturday, October 11, 2014 – Ulster 29 Glasgow Warriors 9, Kingspan Stadium
Saturday, May 16, 2015 – Glasgow Warriors 32 Ulster 10, Scotstoun Stadium


– Glasgow Warriors have reached a fourth successive play-off encounter, and their second in a row at Scotstoun Stadium

– The Warriors were the only side during the GUINNESS PRO12 regular season to have a 100% winning record at home and have won their last 19 league matches at Scotstoun since the Newport Gwent Dragons won there in November 2013

– The Scotsmen’s only defeat in the last six rounds of PRO12 play came at the Ospreys in round 21

– This match is Glasgow’s seventh at a semi-final stage in major competitions, with their only victory being over Munster at Scotstoun in this equivalent encounter last season

– This is Ulster’s third successive appearance in the play-offs, progressing on to the final only in 2013 when they overcame the Scarlets in Belfast at this stage

– The Ulstermen’s last six away games in all competitions have resulted in three wins and three losses

– Ulster have reached this stage eight times previously in all major tournaments, where their record is an even won four and lost four

– Ulster’s only triumph in their last five fixtures with the Warriors was 29-9 at Kingspan Stadium in round 6 this season, while Ulster have been victorious just once at Scotstoun since the Warriors moved there in 2012: 19-8 in a pool game in the European Cup in October 2012

– The Ulstermen have won two previous knockout games in Glasgow, beating the Warriors in a Celtic League quarter-final in 2002 and a Celtic Cup semi-final clash a year later, with both fixtures being played at Hughenden

– This game will also see the Hawk-Eye system in operation again, as part of trials with Sky Sports and World Rugby