Match Preview: Leinster
Glasgow Warriors return to Guinness PRO14 action this weekend, as high-flying Leinster arrive at Scotstoun for a rematch of the 2019 Guinness PRO14 Final.
After losing out in Exeter last weekend, Dave Rennie’s men will be keenly looking for a return to winning ways against the powerhouse Irish province.
Leo Cullen’s squad is laced with world-class talent across every position, with southern hemisphere stars James Lowe and Scott Fardy complementing Irish international stalwarts such as Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong.
With two of the competition’s most consistent performers set to go head to head under the floodlights on Saturday night, the stage is set for another thrilling round of Guinness PRO14 rugby.
Here’s how Leinster are shaping up ahead of Saturday’s encounter:
Leinster form guide
Leinster come into the match sitting pretty at the top of Conference A, the Irish side able to boast the only 100% record remaining in the competition.
A Dave Kearney hat-trick saw Cullen’s men edge to victory away to Benetton in round one, before hooker Ronan Kelleher followed suit in the Irishmen’s 53-5 win over Ospreys at the RDS in round two.
A 40-14 triumph over Edinburgh followed a week later, before Ross Byrne’s penalty proved to be the solitary score in a 3-0 win over Zebre in Parma.
The Dublin-based outfit kept up their form with a brace of bonus-point victories over Dragons and Connacht respectively, before defeating both Benetton and Lyon in their opening matches of the Heineken Champions Cup.
After claiming victory in the 2019 Guinness Pro14 Final at Celtic Park, the Leinster supporters waved goodbye to two long-serving Irish internationals.
Flanker Sean O’Brien departed the RDS for newly-promoted English Premiership side London Irish, whilst Jack McGrath swapped Dublin for Belfast by joining inter-provincial rivals Ulster.
Second-row duo Ian Nagle and Mick Kearney also made the switch to a Guinness PRO14 rival by joining Zebre, with Noel Reid crossing the Irish Sea to link up with Leicester Tigers.
Leinster’s summer recruitment saw Cullen and company prefer to promote from within, as a host of players earned senior contracts following impressive performances in the Leinster academy.
Amongst those performers was hooker Kelleher – currently battling for top position in the competition’s try-scoring charts – and young fly-half Ciaran Frawley, who will jostle for selection with Irish internationals Sexton and Ross Byrne.
Kelleher’s brother Cian also returned to the RDS following a spell with Connacht, having previously come through the men in blue’s academy.
Ones to watch
In a back line filled with star players, Adam Byrne is most definitely one to keep an eye on for the future. Standing at 6’4”, the winger has already amassed over 50 caps for his province since his debut as an 18-year-old back in 2012 – at the time the youngest player to represent Leinster in a competitive match.
Still only 27, Jamison Gibson-Park is so often the man that makes Leinster tick. The former Maori All Blacks scrum-half continually keeps defenders on their toes with his speed around the breakdown, whilst also possessing a top-quality distribution game.
With 39 caps for Australia to his name, Fardy brings a wealth of experience to the Leinster pack. Capable of playing in both the second-row and back-row, the man from Sydney has made an instant impression at the RDS since arriving in 2017.
The Warrior Nation will need no reminding of the most recent meeting between their side and Saturday’s visitors, with the memory of May’s Guinness PRO14 Final still fresh.
In front of over 47,000 at Celtic Park it was Cullen’s side that prevailed in a titanic tussle; tries from Garry Ringrose and Cian Healy, allied to the boot of Sexton, meant that scores from Matt Fagerson and Grant Stewart were ultimately in vain for the Warriors.
There are happier memories to be had for Glasgow supporters from their most recent regular-season clash with Leinster, as Rennie and his players shocked the Irish side by claiming a resounding 39-24 triumph at the RDS.
A spectacular try from Sam Johnson and Tommy Seymour’s score gave the Warriors a deserved half-time lead, before tries from both Fagerson brothers and George Horne completed the victory after the interval.
Craig Evans will be the man in the middle on Saturday night, with the Welshman having taken charge of his first championship match back in November 2017.
Mike Adamson and Adam Jones will be his assistants under the floodlights, whilst John Mason will be the TMO.