Ulster look a strong bet to leave Warriors defenceless


RUGBY: WE ARE not advising the public to gamble but there does appear to be a slight gap in the market. Ulster, with a minus six handicap, are 10/11 to win tonight.

The facts tell us Glasgow may struggle to rack up the necessary points to recover from last week’s 24-15 defeat in Northampton.

For starters, Duncan Weir’s valued boot is unavailable as the young Scotland outhalf recently collided with a goalpost. Weir’s gone for six weeks with a knee injury so Peter Horne is entrusted with place-kicking duties.

The Warriors have also lost Sean Lamont to a fractured cheekbone. Granted, Stuart Hogg is a bundle of potential at fullback, but Lamont is their primary strike runner. The winger’s physicality was best seen when barging through the Northampton defence for an early try last week.

The Warriors failed to live up to their nickname thereafter at Franklin’s Gardens, coughing up 24 unanswered points.

They have other problems. Chris Fusaro replacing John Barclay at openside flanker is not perceived as a weakness as Fusaro was Glasgow’s player of the year in 2011/12, but they do have problems in the frontrow with Moray Low, Ed Kalman, Jon Welsh and Pat Macarthur all in the infirmary. Argentine international German Araoz has been signed on a short term contract but is not eligible here.

John Afoa will be expected to go after Ryan Grant and presuming the relatively unknown French referee Mathieu Raynal can understand what is happening, the penalties should flow Ulsters way at scrum-time.

By the way, Ruan Pienaar starts for Ulster. It’s a little harsh on the in-form Paul Marshall but the Springbok’s control of top level rugby matches should be enough to kick them over the six point bookmakers’ margin.

An obvious weakness in Mark Anscombe’s travelling pack is the continued absence of Stephen Ferris due to a back problem. The silver lining is Iain Henderson continues his development on the blindside flank. Anyone watching the IRB Junior World Cup in June will have seen what this 20-year-old is capable of doing. He was recently upgraded to a full Ulster contract having proved he can cope with the physicality of the senior game.

Anscombe also appears to have settled upon a starting backline. It’s bad news for the lighting quick winger Craig Gilroy as the Tommy Bowe option at outside centre, with Darren Cave making way, isn’t on the agenda at the moment.

An injury or two up front and Ulster could struggle but the starting XV have a set piece that is the envy of every club in Europe and while a bonus point may be just out of reach, it’s unlikely they will allow Glasgow to have one either.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: S Hogg; B McGuigan, P Murchie, P Horne, A Dunbar; R Jackson, H Pyrgos; R Grant, D Hall, M Cusack; T Ryder, A Kellock (capt); J Strauss, C Fusaro, R Wilson. Replacements: F Gillies, O Faingaanuku, G Reid, T Swinson, R Harley, J Barclay, S Wight, N Matawalu.

ULSTER:J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa; J Muller (capt), D Tuohy; I Henderson, C Henry, N Williams. Replacements: R Herring, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, M McComish, P Marshall, L Marshall, C Gilroy.

Referee: M Raynal (Fra).

Verdict:Ulster win without bonus point.

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