The Guinness PRO14’s two leading teams face off this weekend as Leinster Rugby host Glasgow Warriors in what each will hope is a preview for what’s to come, with the Final Series just around the corner.
With Leinster’s top spot already confirmed, Warriors know a win is crucial if they are to secure a place at the semi-final stage.
What’s at stake?
With Glasgow just three points ahead of Munster in Conference A, they know a victory will keep them at the top of the table regardless of Munster’s result against Benetton.
Defending champions Leinster are more comfortable at the top of Conference B, with Leo Cullen’s side 20 points clear of nearest challengers Ulster.
They will be eager to return to winning ways, though. after a defeat and a draw in their last two outings.
Team News (Leinster Rugby)
Sean O’Brien will captain the side as the hosts are boosted by the return of several players from injury.
In the back three, Rob Kearney is joined by Jordan Larmour and Dave Kearney, with the returning Robbie Henshaw paired with Joe Tomane in the midfield, with Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne the half backs.
Ed Byrne, James Tracy and Michael Bent start in the front row, with Devin Toner back from injury to take his place in the second row alongside Academy forward Jack Dunne, who makes his first Leinster start.
Team News (Glasgow Warriors)
Dave Rennie has made two changes to the team that beat Ulster 30-7 last Friday.
Adam Hastings and Tommy Seymour – try-scorers that night – keep their place, whilst Scott Cummings is named in the second row, meaning Rob Harley shifts to six and Jamie Bhatti starts at loose-head.
Huw Jones is among the replacements and could play for the first time since picking up a knee injury whilst playing for Scotland against Ireland.
Leinster backs coach Felipe Contempomi: “It’s finals rugby now and everyone wants to be on the big dates.
“For you to be on the big dates you have to be performing well.
“We always want to win, that’s our mentality.”
Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie: “We’re looking forward to testing ourselves against the best team in Europe.
“It’s an exciting challenge and exactly the kind of game we need as we gear towards knock-out footy.
“We’ve prepared well and, 1-23, expect to see the same levels of desperation and brutality that we saw against Ulster on Friday night.”
Key battle: Robbie Henshaw vs Sam Johnson
Robbie Henshaw returns to action for the first time since Ireland’s first Guinness Six Nations game against England, and will have to be at his best as faces off against Sam Johnson.
Henshaw played full-back that day but returns to the more familiar position of inside centre.
The talented Johnson scored against Ireland in the Guinness Six Nations as part of an impressive campaign for the Scot and will hope to help his club claim a victory.
Did you know?
Leinster Rugby are winless in their last two Guinness PRO14 encounters but have not gone three in a row without a victory for four years.
Glasgow Warriors are the best team on current form in the Guinness PRO14, garnering 29 out of a possible 30 league points in their last six games.
Leinster: Rob Kearney, Jordan Lamour, Joe Tomane, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Jack Dunne, Josh Murphy, Sean O’Brien (c), Caelan Doris
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Tadgh Furlong, Will Connors, Max Deegan, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciaran Frawley, Adam Byrne
Glasgow Warriors: Sturart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, Niko Matawulu, Adam Hastings, Ali Price, Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro (c), Matt Fagerson
Replacements: Grant Steward, Alex Allan, D’Arcy Rae, Bruce Flockhart, Adam Ashe, George Horne, Pete Horne, Huw Jones
TV: eir sport, DAZN, Premier Sports
Referee: Marius Mitrea (IRFU
Assistant Referees: Joy Neville (IRFU), Mateo Liperini (FIR)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)
Glasgow Warriors put in a display characterised by resilience and punctuated with glorious tries as they ended Leinster’s unbeaten record at the RDS Arena with a 39-24 triumph.
In a strangely serendipitous affair, there were six of the game’s nine tries were split between two sets of brothers on each side: the Kearneys notching two apiece, with the Fagersons grabbing the telling Warriors scores that sealed victory.
A see-saw affair, Glasgow came from behind thanks to Zander and Matt, grabbing a vital victory in their bid for the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.
A Ross Byrne yellow for an off-the-ball tackle handed the Warriors early initiative, but they looked to have botched their advantage when the hosts went ahead through ball worked towards the Glasgow line, then moved wide to Dave Kearney, the wing cutting inside clinically to score.
A pair of Adam Hastings penalties put the visitors back in front, and they soon extended their lead.
Straight from kick-off, the Warriors gathered and looked to break, Ali Price the man who spotted a gap behind a ruck, plucked the ball up and scampered through it, before back-handing a delightful pass inside to Sam Johnson at full pelt, who held off Byrne to cap a scintillating score.
Stung by the Warriors’ blitz, Leinster took time to reassert themselves in the game, but when it happened it was in typically pragmatic style.
Huffing and puffing, going through what seemed like innumerable phases without error, the hosts found themselves camped outside the Warriors’ line.
In fact, it took a Leinster error for them to force the score, as Rob Kearney juggled a hot ball, inadvertently knocking it over the last line of Warriors defence before gathering on the other side and dotting down for his first try in blue since 2016.
But the Warriors weren’t to be cowed, and chose to go straight back in search of points rather than consolidate with their lot.
And points they got, Hastings lofting an irresistible pass out to Tommy Seymour at close range, who did the rest and put the Warriors up 18-12 at the break.
But just like London buses, Rob Kearney found that in breaking his long drought, he had in fact opened the floodgates as he put Leinster in front after another exhaustive set from the hosts, Jamison Gibson-Park electing to go down the blindside, with Kearney the beneficiary as he stretched in the corner.
Not to be outdone, however, Dave soon doubled up, Ross Byrne shifting the play before Rob teed up his sibling in what was becoming a fraternal game of one-upmanship.
But Glasgow had soon quashed the side-show as they packed a driving line-out maul that went all the way over, Matt Fagerson emerging from the bottom of the pile with the kudos, before a Hastings conversion put the Warriors back in front.
The visitors kept up the brotherly theme when Zander Fagerson bulldozed over from close-range, giving Glasgow a vital bonus point win, with George Horne putting the icing on the cake with a final try at the death.