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Leinster look to weather the Glasgow storm and continue on upward curve

Leo Cullen’s side face a stern challenge as they visit Scotstoun in round two of the Champions Cup.

Henshaw and Reid start in Leinster's midfield but Adam Byrne has been dropped.
Henshaw and Reid start in Leinster's midfield but Adam Byrne has been dropped.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

SCOTSTOUN ISN’T A ground many teams enjoying visiting, and certainly Leinster’s record at the venue is testimony to how difficult it is to leave unscathed. This will be the province’s sternest appraisal yet.

Not only are Leo Cullen’s side bracing themselves for a deluge of heavy Glasgow rain come Saturday lunchtime [KO 1pm, Sky Sports] but also a Warriors outfit facing into a do-or-die game, even at this early stage of the campaign.

It’s almost a given Glasgow will come out of the blocks quickly in front of a sold-out home crowd, and the return of Stuart Hogg has boosted the Scots further as they look to bounce back from their first defeat of the season last weekend.

Dave Rennie, the Kiwi head coach who had overseen six straight wins before that reversal to Exeter, expects a brutally physical contest and with similar playing styles and matching ambition, much will depend on which pack can build a solid foundation.

Glasgow’s scrum and set-piece ran into problems at Sandy Park last week, and their indiscipline proved costly in a game they ought to have gathered a bonus point from. The hope, from Rennie’s point of view, is that solutions were found during the week and can be executed in the heat of battle.

For Leinster, the focus will have been on their defensive shape and structure. The loss of Isa Nacewa in midfield is a blow given how vulnerable Noel Reid looked after coming off the bench against Montpellier; he missed a competition-high six tackles during his 43 minutes on the pitch and collectively Leinster missed more tackles (34) than any other side on the opening weekend.

Cullen has moved to add experience and perhaps a bit more defensive solidity to his backline with the selection of Fergus McFadden for Adam Byrne, whose bright attacking moments last week were undermined by a weak defensive showing.

“It’s important to get our defensive set up right again, which allows us to attack the game on our own terms,” Cullen, who has made six changes in total, said.

“Glasgow are a very competitive team and they’ve had an incredible start in the Pro14 with six wins on the bounce, it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

Leo Cullen Leinster prepared this week on Donnybrook's 4G surface. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The presence of Johnny Sexton — who will captain Leinster once again — will naturally improve the visitors’ organisation and sharpen their attack with Robbie Henshaw again lining out at 13 and Joey Carbery, outstanding last week, continuing at fullback.

In anticipation of an arm wrestle up front, Cullen has opted for the experience of Cian Healy and Sean Cronin in the front row alongside Tadhg Furlong while Scott Fardy comes back in to partner Devin Toner. The back row remains unchanged.

“Our guys have prepared well this week, we know Glasgow are a very dangerous team at home and bring a huge physical edge to their game,” Cullen continued. “They’re very abrasive at the breakdown. It’s something our guys need to be ready for.

“Glasgow have come out and said that [it's must win] themselves. The pools are tighter than they’ve ever been, the quality is the best it’s been. We need to focus on ourselves and focus on the things we can do right.

“We’ll try and get as much out of the game but we’re going out to win and we’re excited by that fact. Everyone has trained well this week, we’re looking for a positive result now.”

But it’s nearly six years since Leinster last came to this small, atmospheric venue and left with a victory, although they have won five of the six meetings between the sides in Europe and Glasgow have now lost their last nine games against Irish opposition. Cullen, earlier in the week, insisted history is irrelevant.

Glasgow –  who are six from six in the Pro14 — are a formidable proposition at home, as Leinster can attest to after they were blown away by Tommy Seymour’s second-half hat-trick last season. They play a high-tempo game and can cause serious damage out wide with Finn Russell pulling the strings.

Seymour is joined in the back three by fellow Lion Hogg, whose return is a timely and a major fillip to Glasgow as they look to get their Pool 3 campaign back on track.

Leinster will hope theirs isn’t blown off course by a Glasgow storm.

Glasgow:

15. Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Sam Johnson
12. Peter Horne
11. Leonardo Sarto
10. Finn Russell
9. Ali Price

1. Jamie Bhatti
2. George Turner
3. Zander Fagerson
4. Tim Swinson
5. Jonny Gray
6. Ryan Wilson (captain)
7. Callum Gibbins
8. Adam Ashe

Replacements:

16. Pat MacArthur
17. Alex Allan
18. D’Arcy Rae
19. Scott Cummings
20. Rob Harley
21. Henry Pyrgos
22. Nick Grigg
23. Lee Jones

Leinster:

15. Joey Carbery
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Noel Reid
11. Barry Daly
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Seán Cronin
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. Scott Fardy
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan

Replacements:

16. James Tracy
17. Jack McGrath
18. Michael Bent
19. James Ryan
20. Dan Leavy
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Dave Kearney

Referee: Jerome Garces.

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