Leinster will entertain Glasgow Warriors at the semi-final stage of the RaboDirect PRO12 for the second successive year, with a victory moving them a step closer to a trophy that has eluded them since 2008.
RABODIRECT PRO12 SEMI-FINAL: Saturday, May 11
LEINSTER (2nd) v GLASGOW WARRIORS (3rd), the RDS, 7.35pm (live TG4/BBC ALBA)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Glasgow Warriors in Saturday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final at the RDS has been named.
Second row Leo Cullen leads the team for the visit of the Scottish side, featuring in a line-up which includes a number of Ireland internationals.
Gordon D’Arcy has shaken off the calf strain which had ruled him out for the last few games and he will partner Brian O’Driscoll in the centre.
Isaac Boss links up at half-back with Jonathan Sexton, who is now just 13 points shy of the 1,000-point career mark for his home province, with Isa Nacewa forming an exciting back-three alongside British & Irish Lions full-back Rob Kearney and Fergus McFadden.
Curragh man McFadden will make his 94th Leinster appearance – a caps tally he will also share with the recalled Kevin McLaughlin.
Sean O’Brien (calf) is a slight concern and should he fail to fully recover his place will be taken in the panel by fellow Ireland back rower Rhys Ruddock.
Cian Healy starts in the front row alongside Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross with giant lock Devin Toner lining out for the 125th time in Leinster colours.
Ticket sales for Saturday’s game are fast approaching the 11,000 mark. Tickets are on sale online here, and are also available to buy from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
Tickets will be on sale from Ticketmaster vans around the ground up until kick-off on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend has made seven changes and one positional switch to the side that beat Connacht 20-3 in Galway last weekend.
Peter Horne moves from inside centre to out-half, with Ruaridh Jackson dropping to the replacements bench.
Alex Dunbar comes in for Horne, with Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Niko Matawalu, Josh Strauss, Al Kellock and Ryan Grant also back in the Scots’ starting line-up.
Hogg replaces Peter Murchie at full-back, Maitland comes in for Tommy Seymour on the right wing, with the club’s all-time leading try scorer DTH van der Merwe keeping his place on the left flank.
After signing a new deal this week to keep him at Scotstoun Stadium until 2015, Fijian scrum half Matawalu starts ahead of Henry Pyrgos.
Jon Welsh keeps his place at tighthead prop, with Grant coming in at loosehead in place of Moray Low and Pat MacArthur continuing at hooker.
Captain Kellock is back in the side after missing the game against Connacht and he will partner Tim Swinson in the second row.
South African Strauss comes in for Rob Harley at blindside flanker, with Barclay starting at openside and Ryan Wilson at number 8.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien/Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Jamie Hagan, Quinn Roux, Shane Jennings/Rhys Ruddock, John Cooney, Ian Madigan, Andrew Conway.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Alex Dunbar, DTH van der Merwe; Peter Horne, Niko Matawalu; Ryan Grant, Pat MacArthur, Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson, Al Kellock, Josh Strauss, John Barclay, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Moray Low, Ed Kalman, Tom Ryder, Rob Harley, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Mark Bennett.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea, Giuseppe Vivarini (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/6; Draw: 22/1; Glasgow Warriors to win: 9/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Leo Cullen (Leinster) – “We need to try to keep the focus at this time of year. There are always a lot of distractions. Guys are getting picked on various tours, guys are talking about going on holidays, there’s awards being handed out around the place,” he told the Irish Times.
“But this is what it comes down to, and trying to put performances in on the big days. Earlier on in the year, we weren’t looking great, to be honest, for a home semi. Before Christmas we struggled to back up our performances so it’s very pleasing the way it’s panned out.
“We’ve had two very tough games against Glasgow, and there’s only been a score between us on both occasions and it’s a repeat of last year’s semi-final as well.
“They’ve brought in some really good players, and that’s added a huge amount to the way they play. In many ways Glasgow are the form team in the league.
“I think the league posed a lot of challenges as well during the course of this season. It goes through different stages and phases and you’ve got to manage yourself through those stages. It’s a really good breeding ground for players.
“At other stages, teams are fully loaded and it’s a real red hot battle again. I really like the way this league is laid out.”
Gregor Townsend (Glasgow Warriors) – “Leinster have set the benchmark in European rugby for the last three or four seasons and we are under no illusions as to the size of the challenge that awaits us in Dublin.
“Winning (against Connacht) in Galway has created vital momentum for us after our home victory against the Ospreys.
“It was also important that we were able to deliver a quality performance away from home against tough opponents. We return to Ireland this weekend with renewed confidence and determination.
“We narrowly lost to Leinster in March but we were pleased with a number of aspects of our game that night. We’ve improved since then and we’re really looking forward to another opportunity to play at the RDS.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 186; Tries: Ian Madigan 6; Glasgow Warriors – Points: Duncan Weir 76; Tries: DTH van der Merwe 10
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Sunday, March 23, 2013 – Leinster 22 Glasgow Warriors 17, the RDS
– This is Leinster’s fourth successive home play-off game at the RDS, all of which they have won
– In fact the Leinstermen have won their last six semi-final fixtures in all competitions. Leinster’s only loss in the RaboDirect POR12 since round 11 was 22-18 at home to Ulster on March 30
– Leinster are unbeaten in their last ten encounters with Scottish opponents in all tournaments since Glasgow Warriors won 23-19 at the RDS in the PRO12 in September 2011
– This is Glasgow Warriors’ second successive appearance in the play-offs, and a repeat of last year’s fixture at this stage when they also faced Leinster at the RDS, but went down 19-15
– The Warriors have won three of their last four contests with Irish provinces
– Leinster are unbeaten in their last six clashes with the Warriors in all competitions, while Glasgow have been victorious only once in nine previous visits to the RDS