Munster seek to redress away day blues in Glasgow
Glasgow proved tough opposition last season on their artificial Scotstoun surface
Tadhg Beirne: Munster’s new signing is in line to make his debut against Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Glasgow Warriors v Munster, Scotstoun Stadium. Kick-off: 7.35pm.
(On TV: Live on eir Sport 1. Highlights on TG4)
The rugby campaign may still be easing its way back into the public consciousness but last season’s respective pacesetters in the two conferences renew their rivalries this weekend, which thus makes this one of the most significant fixtures of the Guinness PRO14 campaign.
Glasgow’s 37-10 bonus point in September last year went some way toward ensuring the Warriors had a seven-point cushion over Munster come the end of the regular season. There’s a long way to go, but the odds are these two will again by vying for pole position and with it a home semi-final in the play-offs.
It is a further measure of the task facing Munster that Glasgow accumulated a remarkable 49 points out of a possible 50 in ten regular season games on their artificial Scotstoun surface last season.
Admittedly, Dave Rennie’s team curiously ran out of steam toward the end of the campaign, and were filleted by the Scarlets, as only the Welsh region can do, at home in the semi-finals.
Furthermore, while Munster themselves lost only one home match last season (to champions Leinster), they accrued only four wins out of ten regular season PRO14 games on the road, and just five of 15 away matches in both this competition and Europe.
Their runs ended in two semi-final defeats, both away, and so Johann van Graan has highlighted the importance of securing home semi-finals if the province are to end an eight-year trophy draught dating back to this tournament in 2011.
They arrive buoyed by last week’s six-try, 38-0 win over the Cheetahs at Thomond Park and with a settled side, van Graan restoring Sammy Arnold for Dan Goggin in the only alteration to that starting XV. They have been further boosted by the return to the match-day squad of Jaco Taute, after his recovery from the knee injury which has sidelined him since September last year.
New signing Tadhg Beirne is in line for his debut after also being named on a bench which again features Joey Carbery, as Neil Cronin and JJ Hanrahan are retained at half-back after impressive outings last week. This ought to enhance Munster’s impact, especially considering James Cronin, Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer are the back-up front row.
Munster showed plenty of control and patience last week, the likes of Jean Kleyn and Darren Sweetnam have hit the ground running, and the ‘nil’ part of the scoreline also augured well. Yet it’s tricky to gauge the true value of last week’s effort such was the paucity of the performance of a remodelled Cheetahs’ team.
By contrast, Glasgow had to dig far deeper to complete their one-point comeback win away to Connacht last week, and that might stand to them. Helped by some oomph off the bench, Glasgow’s pack outmuscled Connacht in the last quarter, and hooker Fraser Brown and number eight Adam Ashe, who scored last week’s match-winning try, are promoted in the only changes to their starting line-up.
Although Munster won all four meetings two seasons ago, they’ve won just twice in their last seven visits to Glasgow in this competition. While it should be appreciably closer than last year, home advantage again looks significant.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Peter Horne, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, George Horne; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Rob Harley, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson (co-capt), Callum Gibbins (co-capt), Adam Ashe.
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, D’Arcy Rae, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, Ali Price, Alex Dunbar, Niko Matawalu.
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Neil Cronin; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland (C); Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Arno Botha.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Tadhg Beirne, Duncan Williams, Joey Carbery, Jaco Taute.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse [WRU].
Overall PRO14 head-to-head: Played 32, Glasgow 12 wins, 1 draw, Munster 19 wins.
Last season: Glasgow 37 Munster 10, Munster 21 Glasgow 10.
Betting (Paddy Powers): 3/10 Glasgow, 20/1 Draw, 13/5 Munster.
Handicap betting (Munster + 8pts) 10/11 Glasgow, 25/1 Draw, 10/11 Munster.
Forecast: Glasgow to win.