League-leaders Leinster can secure top-spot in the Guinness PRO12 with one game to spare if they beat visitors Glasgow Warriors at the RDS Arena on Friday at 19.35pm.
Leinster require a bonus-point win and must hope results elsewhere go their way as they go in search of being confirmed as the top seed come semi-final time while Warriors look to keep their season alive with a win.
What’s at stake?
Though not mathematically out of the running for a semi-final berth, Glasgow Warriors would require a huge change in fortunes if they are to make it six consecutive appearances in the semi-finals.
The Scottish side must take maximum points from their trip to Dublin if they are to maintain their chances of a top-four finish.
Leinster – top by three points from Munster – can further their title-winning credentials with a victory that would extinguish any hope of Warriors making the semi-finals.
Leinster team news: Zane Kirchner makes his final appearance in a Leinster shirt at the RDS Arena before departing for Newport Gwent Dragons – he starts at full-back with Adam Byrne coming in on the right wing and Fergus McFadden continuing on the left.
In contrast, centre Tom Daly makes his home debut for the province and is joined by Rory O’Loughlin in the midfield.
In the pack Peter Dooley starts at loose head prop with James Tracy at hooker, while Mike Ross – who announced his retirement earlier this week – starts his last regular season game at the RDS at tight head.
Lock Ross Molony captains the side for the first time and is partnered by Mick Kearney in the engine room with Dominic Ryan, Jack Conan and Josh van der Flier making up the back row.
Glasgow Warriors team news: In his first match since being named in the 2017 British & Irish Lions squad, Tommy Seymour will run out for his 100th appearance for Glasgow Warriors.
Seymour lines up at full-back with Lee Jones and Leonardo Sarto making up the back three. Nick Grigg and Sam Johnson continue in the midfield after they both touched down to score in Warriors’ victory over Zebre in Round 20.
Peter Horne – who maintained a 100% kicking record against Zebre – keeps his place at fly-half with Finn Russell among the replacements while scrum-half Henry Pyrgos co-captains the side.
Brian Alainu’uese celebrates his recent new contract with a start alongside co-captain Jonny Gray in the second row, with Tim Swinson, Chris Fusaro and Adam Ashe making up the back row.
Scotland internationals Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Ali Price, Finn Russell and Alex Dunbar all return from a week of rest and will look to bring an impact to the game off the bench.
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend tipped his cap to Tommy Seymour in what has been a stellar year for him so far, he said: “It has been a good couple of weeks for Tommy, he’s always looking to develop and better himself and it’s great for him to reach a personal milestone.
“Having signed a new contract earlier in the season I’m sure he’ll go on to shine for the club many more times in the future.
“Leinster are a team we always look forward to playing, they’re one of the best teams in Europe and play really positive rugby. We’ll have to go there and play really well to come away with a win.”
Lions Watch: Seymour scored four tries in a man of the match performance in the reverse fixture at Scotstoun earlier this season, inspiring Glasgow to a 33-25 bonus-point victory.
And the Scot will hope to further his argument for a Lions start when he goes head-to-head with Springbok Zane Kirchner at full-back.
Seymour’s versatility could be invaluable to Gatland should the Lions suffer key injuries in New Zealand.
Key battle: Zane Kirchner v Tommy Seymour
With it being an emotional occasion for both players – Kirchner in his last regular season home game for the club and Seymour celebrating his 100th appearance – composure will be key for the two full-backs.
Seymour is accustomed to seeing compatriot Stuart Hogg in the No.15 jersey and could have to field a lot more high balls than he would playing on the wing.
Kirchner, a more experienced full-back, will have his work cut out if he clears loosely from hand with Jones, Sarto and Seymour all dangerous on the counter-attack.
Key stat: Glasgow have lost their last four away games in all competitions since beating Leicester Tigers 43-0 at Welford Road in the European Champions Cup in January.
Did you know? The Leinstermen have not been defeated at the RDS Arena in the Guinness PRO12 since Dragons won there in February 2015.
Leinster top points scorer: Isa Nacewa 85 Top try scorer: Joey Carbery 8
Glasgow Warriors top points scorer: Finn Russell 67 Top try scorer: Tommy Seymour 8
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record: Played 33, Leinster won 20, Warriors won 11 with 2 games drawn
At RDS Arena 7.35pm – Live on TG4
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR, 66th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (WRU), Simone Boaretto (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Walsh (IRFU)
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final
Leinster took another step towards finishing on top spot come the end of this Guinness PRO12 campaign after getting the better of Glasgow Warriors in one of the most dramatic finales of the season at the RDS Arena.
Dominic Ryan and Rory O’Loughlin scored within the first ten minutes as the hosts enjoyed an electric start in their final home game of the regular season – an effort that included a record-breaking score.
Peter Dooley ensured a third came before the break, but Warriors fought back with Adam Ashe’s try early in the second half while Lee Jones and Finn Russell crossed to put the Scots into the lead.
But it proved not enough in the most dramatic of circumstances as Leinster moved eight points clear ahead of Munster as Joey Carbery kicked the decisive penalty, with a home semi-final already guaranteed in their bid to lift the Guinness PRO12 trophy – all after the lights went out in Dublin.
However it was the Warriors who were on the board first as Peter Horne kicked three simple points from the tee to make the most of his side’s early pressure.
The rest of the opening stages belonged to the Irish side though, as a beautiful pass from Noel Reid set Adam Byrne away, with Ryan the man finding the gap to cross after just a few minutes.
Following that came a moment of Guinness PRO12 history, as O’Loughlin crossed after confirmation from the TMO – the 652nd score of the season, the most the competition has ever seen.
Glasgow were not going to give up in their bid for a strong finish to the campaign however, with Horne once again kicking expertly from the tee to close the gap to 12-6 from the ten-metre line.
Leinster responded in kind though thanks to Ross Byrne’s penalty, and a killer blow came five minutes before the end of the first half as Dooley crashed down when he profited from a maul off the lineout.
That gave the hosts the half-time lead at the RDS, but it was to be cut very quickly after the break as Ashe bundled over, once again rewarding a quick start to the half for the Warriors.
But Leinster’s bid for a bonus point was not to go without its reward as Zane Kirchner crossed on the hour mark with Reid and Byrne once again pulling the strings at the RDS for the bonus point.
Still Warriors kept pushing though, narrowing the gap to 28-23 as a superb break from Ali Price at halfway saw the ball eventually in the hand of Jones, with the wing making no mistake to set up a thrilling last 15 minutes.
And a superb turnaround was completed when the Scots took the lead for the first time since the opening minutes with some rugby deserving of taking the advantage.
Russell was the man to finish off a brilliant move, stretching and holding on to slam the ball onto the turf, converting his own kick to move into a 30-28 lead, with just five minutes left to play.
Leinster showed exactly why they are top of the pile however, as Carbery kicked a penalty with the clock rapidly ticking down, embarking on a one-point ball game.
But just as it looked as though Leinster would hang on to the win, Glasgow kicked a penalty deep into home territory, only for the turnover to lead to a huge slice of relief in Dublin.
Just as it seemed nothing else could add to the drama, the lights went out in the RDS Arena – with just 90 seconds left to play in a crucial finale.
When play eventually restarted Glasgow were in possession, but they couldn’t quite do enough to force the points, left on the wrong end of a 61-point thriller.
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final
27 Apr 2017