Glasgow can extend unbeaten record at Munster’s expense
Head coach Dave Rennie’s in-form Warriors will enjoy backing of a sold-out Scotstoun
The only change to last week’s starting Munster XV sees Rory Scannell named for his first start of the new season. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Glasgow Warriors v Munster, Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm (TG4)
Last weekend’s encounter between Ulster and the Scarlets upped the ante, and after an otherwise low-key start to the Guinness Pro14’s brave new dawn, featuring mostly lob-sided contests, this clash of the two unbeaten sides in Conference A raises the bar again. They also have plenty of recent history and don’t tend to do dull.
Accordingly, Scotstoun is a 7,351 sell-out for a clash between sides, both formerly champions, which will be refereed by Nigel Owens, a week on from him overseeing the All Blacks’ 57-0 rout of South Africa in the Rugby Championship.
Finalists in 2015, when Glasgow beat Munster 31-13 in Belfast, and drawn in the same European group last season, they have thus met nine times in the last three seasons.
While there’s respect aplenty, familiarity also breeds a fair degree of needle, and so it proved in last season’s four meetings, not least the return European clash here when Conor Murray was targeted by the Warriors.
Munster won all four of those fixtures, but aside from the emotionally-charged, unforgettable and rousing 37-17 European win over Glasgow in Thomond Park the day after Anthony Foley’s funeral, the other three were all close, one-score game.
Indeed, the winning margin in five of the last six meetings has been two, three, one, three and two points.
Munster arrive in settled, confident form, having rolled up their sleeves and ground out a 21-16 win away to the Ospreys in a none too memorable contest in Swansea last Saturday.
Rassie Erasmus again keeps changes to a minimum, and the only alteration to last week’s starting XV sees Rory Scannell named for his first start of the new season. The Irish international plays alongside Chris Farrell, who has made an impressive start since signing from Grenoble, for the first time.
For his part, newly installed Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie recalls captain Ryan Wilson to an otherwise unchanged pack, but there are three changes to the backline. Ali Price is reunited with Finn Russell at half-back, while Rory Hughes and Peter Horne are recalled in the left wing and at inside centre.
On the bench, Rob Harley is included for this first time this season having overcome an ankle injury, while Sam Johnson and Leonardo Sarto are also named amongst the replacements.
“It’s a good litmus test for us,” says Rennie. “We’ll get a bit of an idea of where we’re at. Both sides are unbeaten and Munster have been a really strong side for years. It’s a good test and one we’re all looking forward to.”
“We’ve created a lot of opportunities but not been clinical enough to turn them into points, so that’s our challenge this week.”
The same litmus test of sorts applies to Munster who, prior to their win in the Liberty Stadium, had registered bonus point wins over Benetton and the Cheetahs. In beating Connacht and the Blues away, either side of thumping the Ospreys 31-10 at home, the Warriors form has looked the better.
Rennie’s imprint was all over that win against the Ospreys. With every incentive and roared on by their home fans, they look favourites to retain the last unbeaten record in this conference.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: R Jackson; L Jones, N Grigg, P Horne, R Hughes; F Russell, A Price; J Bhatti, G Turner, Z Fagerson, T Swinson, S Cummings, R Wilson (capt), C Gibbins, A Ashe.
Replacements: P MacArthur, A Allan, D Rae, B Alainu’uese, R Harley, H Pyrgos, S Johnson, L Sarto.
MUNSTER: A Conway, D Sweetnam, C Farrell, R Scannell, A Wootton; T Bleyendaal (capt), D Williams; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland; S O’Connor, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue.
Replacements: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, F Wycherley, R Copeland, J Hart, J Taute, S Zebo.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU).