They may be set to face a Dragons side with just one win to their name in the Guinness PRO12 season so far, but head coach Gregor Townsend insists his Glasgow Warriors cannot afford to be complacent.
The Warriors have slipped to successive Guinness PRO12 defeats to Cardiff Blues and Ulster Rugby in their last two outings, but have not lost three in a row in the same season in the Championship since the end of the 2010/11 campaign.
A 23-20 defeat against the Blues ended a nine-game unbeaten run against the Welsh sides in the competition, with Townsend delighted to welcome back some key faces in a bid to return to winning ways.
“Rodney Parade is always a difficult place to visit and the Dragons are a hugely physical side, so we’re going to have to be at the top of our game tomorrow night,” said Townsend.
“It’s great to welcome Peter Murchie back. He’s been working really hard after picking up an injury during pre-season and the return of Josh Strauss and Rob Harley from injury is also a boost.
“The inclusion of Robert McAlpine has really helped us out, increasing our squad depth at second-row. Rob is an experienced player who has been in very good form for Ayr this season.”
The Dragons’ victory against Zebre three weeks ago is their only Guinness PRO12 success of the season so far, missing out against Ulster, Munster and, most recently, Benetton Rugby Treviso.
And recent records between the two don’t sit in favour of the Welsh side, losing their last four all encounters, last victorious 24-23 at Rodney Parade in February 2014.
But despite form and history being against them, head coach Kingsley Jones feels it’s only a matter of time before all their components fall into place, and is backing a home clash against the Warriors to be the ideal time for that to happen.
“We were disappointed with the defeat (against Treviso) because we defeated ourselves with what we did,” he said.
“I think we are just that one victory away. Hopefully it will come this weekend and it does kick-start things for us.
“We are in a good place. We’ve retained the squad so we’ve got a lot of fit players. We’ll make a few changes for the weekend, bring a few players back in.”
Fit-again back rower Lewis Evans returns to captain the Men of Gwent, who make ten changes for Friday night’s encounter, looking for just a second win in 15 Guinness PRO12 matches.
Nick Macleod is also back from injury to take his place at outside half, slotting into the backs with the returning Pat Howard, Sam Beard, Jack Dixon and Sarel Pretorius.
Rhys Thomas and Brok Harris come into the front row, while former All Blacks hooker Corey Flynn makes his first start of the season for the Scots.
Newport Gwent Dragons: Meyer; Howard, Beard, Dixon, Amos; Macleod, Pretorius; Hobbs, Thomas, Harris, Screech, Landman, Crosswell, Evans, Cudd
Replacements: Buckley, T Davies, Mitchell, Hill, Keddie, C Davies, O’Brien, Prydie
Glasgow Warriors: Murchie; Seymour, Bennett, Dunbar, Hughes; Russell, Pyrgos; Allan, Flynn, Puafisi, Harley, Gray, Wynne, Strauss, Brown
Replacements: MacArthur, Sears-Duru, Rae, McAlpine, Fagerson, Price, Clegg, Sarto
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 26, NG Dragons won 13, Warriors won 11, and 2 games drawn.
At Rodney Parade, 7:35pm. Live on BBC Wales and BBC ALBA
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU, 14th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Aled Evans (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)
Alex Allan’s first try of the season saw Glasgow Warriors get back to winning ways in the Guinness PRO12 as they survived a second-half fightback from Newport Gwent Dragons to win 26-17 at Rodney Parade.
Glasgow Warriors were looking to avoid losing three successive league games for the first time since the 2010/11 campaign and looked in control at half-time as they led 16-3 thanks to a Corey Flynn try and the boot of Finn Russell.
But two tries in five minutes after the restart from Sam Hobbs and Jack Dixon saw the Dragons nudge one point ahead.
However, the lead was shortlived as Allan put the visitors back in front and Russell kicked a late penalty en route to recording a fifth-straight victory over the Dragons.
The home side had the first chance to get on the scoreboard but Nick Macleod sent his fifth-minute penalty wide after Glasgow were pinged for not rolling away.
And just moments later Russell showed Macleod how it is done as he slotted his effort through the posts to give Glasgow the lead as Hallam Amos conceded a penalty after scrambling back in defence.
The home side went straight on the attack and after 12 phases looked as though they were destined for the game’s first try, only to lose possession and the Warriors to kick the ball away.
And it led to a chance for the visitors as a clever cross-kick from Russell was straight into the hands of Tommy Seymour, but the wing knocked on following pressure from Dragons full-back Carl Meyer.
But Glasgow did nudge further ahead on 25 minutes as Dragons lock Rynard Landman illegally used his hand to flick the ball away at a ruck and Russell made it two kicks from two attempts.
And things got even better for the visitors as a drive following a line out resulted in Flynn going over, with Russell converting for a 13-0 lead just before the half-hour mark.
However, moments later Glasgow flanker Fraser Brown was adjudged to have put in a no-arms tackle on Dragons No.8 Lewis Evans and was sent to the sin bin, with Macleod successful with the resulting penalty to get the home side on the scoreboard.
But from the restart the Dragons were offside in their own 22 and Russell handed the Warriors back their 13-point lead as they visitors went in at half-time 16-3 ahead.
The Dragons started the second half strongly though and a strong carry from centre Dixon saw prop Hobbs spin out of a tackle and dot down, with Macleod adding the extras to bring his side to within six of the Warriors.
And the home side led for the first time just five minutes later as Dixon started and finished a move – that also saw good link up play Sam Beard and Amos – with Macleod once again converting.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as prop Allan demonstrated his impressive feed to cross the whitewash, with Russell converting.
That gave Glasgow a 23-17 lead after 52 minutes and the game became somewhat disjointed as a raft of replacements were introduced.
It was the home side who were next to threaten, but a mix up between Evans and Rhys Buckley resulted in a knock on with the Dragons just five metres out.
And at the other end Russell knocked over a late penalty to deny the Dragons a losing bonus point.
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
01 Oct 2016
29 Sep 2016