Leinster face a tough challenge in Glasgow
The Dublin team meet one of the better sides early in this years PRO12 league campaign
Leinster’s Isaac Boss, tackled by Tom Smith of Ospreys, starts his first match of the season at scrumhalf this evening against Glasgow. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ian Madigan was prepared for it long before the season began. The Irish capped outhalf has made no secret that he prefers the 10 shirt to any other but insists that any other will do him as long as he is playing and tonight starting at fullback will do just fine.
This week coach Matt O’Connor again goes for the experienced Jimmy Gopperth, who has been impressively controlled in the position.
It’s exactly what O’Connor wanted from Gopperth and with his kicking, Gopperth is now joint top of the points table with 26 points from two games.
It was a scowling Glasgow coach, the former Scottish outhalf Gregor Townsend, who left the RDS last season muttering to himself that his team had the beating of Leinster. Townsend is a canny, tough coach and there was merit in what he was saying.
First match of season
Leinster’s Isaac Boss starts his first match of the season at scrumhalf with Eoin Reddan on the bench and Dave Kearney moving to the wing, Brendan Macken, Gordon D’Arcy and Darragh Fanning completing the backline.
Kearney hopes that the tackling can be improved and in phases against Ospreys, Leinster were opened more easily than we have seen for some time. If anything tonight O’Connor’s team will improve their one on one hits with no slipping off.
Tom Denton in the secondrow is the only change from the pack that drew with Ospreys and flanker Shane Jennings again leads the side.
Glasgow play good rugby. No doubt. And after beating Ulster at Ravenhill last Friday they will come out swinging.
Chris Cusiter starts for the first time in 11 months to captain the team as Townsend makes five changes.
Along with the scrumhalf Alex Dunbar, Jon Welsh, Chris Fusaro and Richie Vernon come into the team with Seam Lamont moving from centre to the wing.
Leinster know what to expect and the nuances of line speed and space awareness that went missing last week should be tightened up. Set piece ball will be important for both as the two sides have runners all over the park, Lamont, Stuart Hogg and DTH van der Merwe three of Glasgow’s obvious threats.
“They have been consistently one of the leading teams in Europe for some time now and have only lost once in their last 20 games,” said Townsend.
“It will require one of our very best performances to win on Friday. There wasn’t much between the sides last season and we came close to winning on a couple of occasions. We learned a great deal from those games.”
Losehead prop Cian Healy as well as Devin Toner provide some heavyweight backup from the bench should Leinster need it and that is likely, although Glasgow, who have won their two opening matches, have not won their first three league games since 2002.
Last seven meetings
Castres were the last team to beat Glasgow at Scotstoun and that streak runs back to the European Cup in December. But the stats also stack up nicely for Leinster too and Glasgow haven’t won against the Dublin side in their last seven meetings, although they drew 10-10 last year at Firhill. Would it be disloyal to think that Glasgow might edge this one?
LEINSTER: I Madigan; D Kearney, B Macken, G D’Arcy, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Ross; M McCarthy, T Denton; K McLaughlin, S Jennings (capt), J Murphy. Replacements: A Dundon, C Healy, M Moore, D Toner, D Ryan, E Reddan, N Reid, R Kearney.
GLASGOW: S Hogg; S Lamont, M Bennett, A Dunbar, DTH van der Merwe; R Jackson, C Cusiter (capt); R Grant, P MacArthur, J Welsh; J Gray, T Swinson; R Harley, C Fusaro, R Vernon. Replacements: D Hall, J Yanuyanutawa, E Kalman, J Eddie, J Strauss, H Pyrgos, S Wight, B McGuigan.
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (IRFU).