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Return of Sexton and Hogg adds another dimension to Glasgow-Leinster 'arm wrestle'

The Lions team-mates are both set to take centre stage at Scotstoun on Saturday.

JOHNNY SEXTON’S RETURN is a major fillip for Leinster, but equally significant is the presence of Stuart Hogg on the Glasgow team-sheet for Saturday’s Champions Cup showdown.

Jonathan Sexton Sexton captains Leinster for the third time this season at Scotstoun. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Sexton has shaken off a dead leg to captain the eastern province for the third time this season and will boost Leo Cullen’s side for what will be a stern test of their European credentials.

Glasgow are already in must-win territory in Pool 3 having left Sandy Park with no points to show for their efforts on the opening weekend, with its significance underlined by Dave Rennie’s decision to throw Hogg straight back into the mix from the off.

The Scottish fullback hasn’t played since sustaining a facial injury during the Lions’ warm-up fixture against the Crusaders and after his tour was curtailed he then underwent surgery to repair a long-standing shoulder problem.

The return of the Lions team-mates on either side tomorrow adds another dimension to an already mouth-watering clash of two of the Pro14′s top teams at a sold-out Scotstoun.

“It’s good to have Johnny back,” Leo Cullen said. “He’s such a key leadership figure for us so it’s amazing to have his experience coming in.

“I thought he went very well in his first two games. He came in against Edinburgh, played against Munster the following week. He was a little bit unlucky last week, it was touch and go whether he’d play.

“That decision was made pretty early in the week so he’s been able to focus on Glasgow and we expect a big performance from him.”

While Ross Byrne deputised with great confidence and composure last week, producing several big plays for his side in the 10 jersey, the significance of Sexton’s presence behind the Leinster scrum cannot be understated.

He became Leinster’s top points scorer with 13 points in the inter-pro win over Munster at the Aviva a fortnight ago and his influence on games knows no bounds; intelligent decision-making, crisp passing, an ability to break the line himself and a leading figure in both Leinster’s attacking play and defensive work.

Dave Rennie, the Glasgow head coach, knows the threat he brings.

“He’s very experienced,” he said. “He’s a massive influence on their side and we’re aware of that. We’re going to put him under a bit of heat to hopefully disrupt their rhythm, he’s quality.”

Stuart Hogg Stuart Hogg is set for his first appearance of the season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Rennie, though, has two Lions in his own back three and Hogg’s power and pace, coupled with Tommy Seymour’s devastating finishing ability means Glasgow are a potent attacking force.

“He’s pretty handy isn’t he?’ the Kiwi said of Hogg. “He’s got himself in great nick, broken club records in speed, dropped a fair bit of weight and got leaner. He’s got a massive kicking game, he’s electric on the field and he’s really demanding, will put pressure on other games to perform well tomorrow. It’s gold to have him back in.

“He’s just a bundle of energy around the group, it’s infectious. He was close last week but we just wanted to make sure the introduction was right and certainly he’s getting more explosive, powerful and leaner. He’s very excited to be back.”

And the Scottish side will hope Hogg’s return adds a clinical edge to their attack having spurned several opportunities against Exeter Chiefs to leave with at least a losing bonus point.

Certainly they have an attacking armour capable of hurting Leinster’s defence as Finn Russell lines up outside scrum-half Ali Price and Sam Johnson and Peter Horne bring physicality and creativity in midfield.

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Rennie added: ”This game was always a must win, regardless of the Exeter result. In this competition you need to win your home games and we’ve prepared well and are raring to go.

“Leinster were impressive last week. We are expecting another arm wrestle. It’ll be a brutal encounter and the guys are excited. We know we need to create more opportunities and be more clinical.

“Our boys are aware of that but we’re not focusing on the end result, just the performance and hopefully keeping the scoreboard ticking over.”

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