Something will have to give at the RDS tonight as the RaboDirect PRO12’s most in-form teams clash, with Leinster looking to complete a season’s double over Glasgow Warriors who have won a record seven straight league games.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, March 23
LEINSTER (3rd) v GLASGOW WARRIORS (2nd), the RDS, 7.45pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC ALBA)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Glasgow Warriors in Saturday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at the RDS has been named.
The province are boosted by the return of several players who were unavailable during the recent Six Nations window including Isa Nacewa, who lines out at full-back just a few days after confirming that he will retire at the end of the season.
Nacewa starts in a back-three which also features Andrew Conway and David Kearney, who scored a brace of tries last time out against the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Isaac Boss partners the league’s top points scorer and new Ireland cap Ian Madigan, who has scored 127 points in 17 games to date, at half back, with the returning Gordon D’Arcy forming a centre partnership with Eoin O’Malley.
Leo Cullen leads the team from the engine room where his second row partner Quinn Roux will be making his first senior appearance since the reverse fixture in November.
Shane Jennings is included in a strong home-grown back row unit alongside Kevin McLaughlin and Jordi Murphy, with Heinke van der Merwe joining Ireland duo Sean Cronin and Michael Bent in the front row.
Head coach Joe Schmidt can call upon some talented young players from the bench, with seven Academy graduates listed among the replacements.
Ticket sales for the Leinster v Glasgow game are approaching the 16,000 mark. Tickets are on sale online here, and are also available to purchase from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
Unfortunately due to the inclement weather over the last 24 hours, the planned ‘Spring Fling’ activities have been cancelled.
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors boss Gregor Townsend has made six personnel changes and one positional switch to the team that defeated Cardiff Blues earlier this month.
Tommy Seymour, Rob Harley, Tom Ryder, Ed Kalman, Dougie Hall and Moray Low all come into the starting line-up, while Jon Welsh, Pat MacArthur, Gordon Reid and Ryan Wilson drop to the bench and Byron McGuigan and Tim Swinson both miss out on a squad place.
Niko Matawalu keeps the number 9 jersey and Duncan Weir is given the nod at out-half ahead of Ruaridh Jackson, after starting the last two of Scotland’s games against Ireland and France.
Exciting youngsters Peter Horne and Alex Dunbar continue their centre partnership, with Peter Murchie once again deployed at full-back.
Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe starts on the left wing, with Seymour replacing McGuigan on the opposite side.
Low and Kalman make up the front row, with the experienced Hall coming in at hooker and captain Al Kellock starting alongside Ryder in the second row.
Josh Strauss moves from flanker to number 8, in place of Wilson, while John Barclay continues at openside flanker and Harley comes in at blindside.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; David Kearney, Eoin O’Malley, Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Conway; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Heinke van der Merwe, Sean Cronin, Michael Bent, Leo Cullen (capt), Quinn Roux, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jordi Murphy.
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Jamie Hagan, Devin Toner, Dominic Ryan, John Cooney, Brendan Macken, Fionn Carr.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne, DTH Van der Merwe; Duncan Weir, Niko Matawalu; Moray Low, Dougie Hall, Ed Kalman, Tom Ryder, Al Kellock (capt), Rob Harley, John Barclay, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, James Eddie, Ryan Wilson, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Sean Lamont.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Barrie O’Connell (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/4; Draw: 22/1; Glasgow Warriors to win: 11/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster) – “I suppose we are third in the league, good position there. We have a decent cushion in terms of that. We are comfortably in the top four at least.
“We put ourselves in that position because at one stage of the season we were struggling a little bit in the Rabo. It is coming to the business end of the season and if we win all our games between now and the end we have two trophies. It’s a great target for us.
“I’m expecting Glasgow to be dangerous. We were looking at their threats and the video went on for about an hour.
“They have got so many different threats from so many different angles. They have got a really dangerous nine, (Niko) Matawalu who is causing havoc.”
Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors) – “We have been on a fantastic run of form lately, but Leinster will provide an extremely tough challenge for us and we’ll need to be at our best if we’re to come away with a positive result.
“It’s been good to have our full squad back together again after the Six Nations and training has been very competitive and sharp this week.
“We travel to Dublin having put ourselves in a good position in the league, but nothing is won until May and we still have a lot of work to do.
““Leinster are the only team to still have a 100% home winning record in the league and that shows just how difficult our task will be this weekend. For the past few seasons they have been the best in Europe at playing with pace, ambition and aggression.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 127; Tries: Ian Madigan 5; Glasgow Warriors – Points: Duncan Weir 58; Tries: DTH van der Merwe 8
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, September 3, 2010 – Glasgow Warriors 22 Leinster 19, Firhill Stadium
Friday, May 6, 2011 – Leinster 38 Glasgow Warriors 3, the RDS
Saturday, September 17, 2011 – Leinster 19 Glasgow Warriors 23, the RDS
Saturday, February 25, 2011 – Glasgow Warriors 10 Leinster 10, Firhill Stadium
Saturday, May 12, 2012 – Semi-final – Leinster 19 Glasgow Warriors 15, the RDS
Friday, November 23, 2012 – Glasgow Warriors 0 Leinster 6, Scotstoun Stadium
– The RaboDirect PRO12’s top two teams on current form meet head on at the RDS, with Glasgow having dropped just one possible league point and Leinster only two over the past six rounds
– Leinster remain the only side left in the PRO12 with a 100% home winning record in the competition this season. The Leinstermen’s most recent defeat was 27-19 to Ulster at Ravenhill on December 21
– Glasgow Warriors top the table in the RaboDirect PRO12 courtesy of a record run of seven straight victories in the tournament, since they lost 31-3 at Munster on December 1
– The Warriors have picked up maximum points in each of their last five matches
– Glasgow have not beaten Leinster in any competition since their 23-19 win at the RDS in the PRO12 back in September 2011