Gregor Townsend warned his Glasgow Warriors players they must raise their game if they are to have any hope of beating Guinness PRO12 contenders Leinster at Scotstoun on Saturday.
It is a clash of former champions, with four-time winners Leinster taking on a Warriors side full of confidence after dismantling reigning Guinness PRO12 champions Connacht 41-5 at the Sportsground in Round One.
The last time these two sides met Glasgow came out on top in a tense 12-6 victory and Townsend has the luxury of fielding 14 full internationals, with Fijian Sila Puafisi coming in for Zander Fagerson and Fraser Brown for Pat Macarthur.
Nevertheless, Townsend is expecting a brutal clash when the two Guinness PRO12 heavyweights meet.
‘We’re playing the favourites,” Townsend said. “They’ve been the best team in our competition, or one of the best, for the past few years, they were the best team in Europe for two or three years.
“They have some quality young players coming through. For me they are the benchmark.
“We have to bring the players up again because of the challenge of Leinster.
“We have to front up physically, which we did last week, because they really challenge you around the breakdown and they try and play at a high tempo.
“The players will be excited and highly motivated because we’re back at home and likely to be a capacity crowd.
“You will get that energy from them but I think we have to raise our focus because of the opponent.”
Leinster were made to work incredibly hard for a 20-8 win over Benetton Treviso at the RDS Arena, with coach Leo Cullen making three changes to last week’s starting line-up.
Star debutant last weekend Joey Carberry continues at outside-half for the Irishmen, with James Tracy coming in at hooker, Jordi Murphy starting his first game of the season at No.8 and Dave Kearney recovering from a shoulder injury to start on the wing.
Rob Kearney believes 20-year-old fly-half Carberry can be the key for Leinster this season after he shone last time out – scoring two exceptional individual tries – against Treviso.
“It was brilliant, he’s a superb player and I suppose we’ve seen that in training over the past couple of months and he has starred in the AIL final last year,” the Lions full-back said.
“It’s really important that you reward guys who are doing that; it’s a great vindication to the club game as well, that if you progress and perform really well then you will get your opportunities.
“I know our scouts work really hard to make sure that we’re picking out these guys who display great talent at a young age.
“He came in on Friday and did superbly, showing that he was right at home at this level.”
Stuart Hogg; Leonardo Sarto, Alex Dunbar, Sam Johnson, Tommy Seymour; Peter Horne, Henry Pyrgos; Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown, Sila Puafisi, Tim Swinson, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Simone Favaro, Ryan Wilson
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Alex Allan, Zander Fagerson, Tjiuee Uanivi, Lewis Wynne, Ali Price, Rory Clegg, Lee Jones
Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Joey Carbery, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Mike McCarthy, Ross Molony, Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier, Jordi Murphy
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Peter Dooley, Tadhg Furlong, Mick Kearney, Dominic Ryan, Jamison Gibson Park, Cathal Marsh, Zane Kirchner
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 32, Glasgow Warriors won 10, Leinster won 20 and 2 games drawn.
At Scotstoun Stadium, 3pm. Live on Sky Sports
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 55th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Dan Jones (WRU), Dunx McClement (SRU)
Citing Commissioner: John Montgomery (SRU)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (WRU)
Tommy Seymour starred for Glasgow Warriors as he scored four tries in their thrilling 33-25 win over Leinster at Scotstoun Stadium.
The winger, who will have eyes on a British & Irish Lions place next summer, scored the game’s first try with a neat finish in the corner, before Leinster hit back through Rob Kearney.
Two more tries before the break gave Leo Cullen’s side a half-time lead, but Seymour took over in the second period and capitalised on two major Leinster errors to complete his hat-trick.
He then capped off a fine display with a late fourth to secure Glasgow their second win of the season after last week’s opening victory at Connacht.
Despite a handsome victory at the champions last weekend, Gregor Townsend made two changes to his side with Fraser Brown and Sila Puafisi drafted into the front row.
But it was their backs who excelled early on as some fast hands and direct running proved too much for Leinster, and Sam Johnson released Seymour down the left for an easy score with an excellent flat pass.
Leinster, who beat Benetton Treviso 20-8 in week one, were able to call on Ireland international duo Jordi Murphy and Dave Kearney.
But it was Rob Kearney who showed off his quality, as he evaded a couple of tackles to score.
Glasgow regained the lead through lock Tim Swinson who powered his way over after a relentless drive by the Warriors’ forwards.
However, just as they started to take charge Leonardo Sarto was sin-binned and Leinster made Glasgow pay by scoring twice before the break.
Josh van der Flier burst through a gap after picking the ball up off the back of a ruck to score, before Joey Carbery landed a perfect cross-field kick into the arms of substitute Zane Kirchner for Leinster’s third on the stroke of half time.
Carbery’s deadly boot found its mark again after the break as he stretched Leinster’s lead to 10 with a penalty, but he gifted the hosts a route back into the game with a loose pass which was intercepted by Seymour, who ran in to score his second.
And the winger completed his hat-trick in style as he took advantage of another Leinster handling error by slipping through several tackles before running under the posts to give Glasgow the lead.
Carbery responded for Leinster with a penalty 17 minutes from time to bring the gap down to one point.
But Glasgow remained strong, as the forwards slowed the ball down and kept Leinster away from the try line, before pouncing at the other end as Seymour burst through a gap to score his fourth and wrap up the win.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final