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Dublin: 16 °C Monday 26 August, 2019
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Leinster have chance to finish with a bang in Glasgow's Celtic Park

Dave Rennie’s side should prove a difficult proposition on home soil.

Murray Kinsella reports from Glasgow

CELTIC FC WAS founded by Irishman Brother Walfrid in 1888 and though he was a Sligo native, Leinster are hoping they have the rub of the green in Celtic Park this evening for the Guinness Pro14 final [KO 6.30pm, eir Sport/ TG4/ Premier Sports].

Leinster’s title is on the line against the home team in Glasgow Warriors, however, with Dave Rennie’s side having marked their card in targeting this decider as soon as it was announced.

A semi-final exit last season has sat uneasily with them for a year and, having last won the title in 2015, Glasgow very much believe this is their year.

A view of training Celtic Park hosts the Guinness Pro14 final this evening. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

After head coach Leo Cullen had offered up an apology for the tongue-in-cheek comments he made last week, Leinster captain Johnny Sexton was yesterday unwilling to confirm whether or not he is a Celtic fan for fear of “stoking any fires again.”

But, having played the Champions Cup final at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park two weekends ago, Sexton did confirm that it was going to be very cool for Leinster to line out at Celtic Park.

“There’s a big affiliation for Celtic and Ireland, and a lot of us would have grown up watching games here and dreaming to play here, and it’s great to get the chance to do it,” said Sexton of what he termed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

With more than 43,000 tickets sold by Friday afternoon, there should be a fine crowd in the 60,800-capacity stadium and the stuff on the pitch should be outstanding too. 

Glasgow underlined their heads-up, free-running, decision-making class in scoring seven tries and 50 points as they hammered Ulster in their semi-final at Scotstoun last weekend, halfbacks Ali Price and Adam Hastings showing their smooth quality.

While there may be some rain tomorrow and Rennie expects more kicking as a result, he also promised “we are not going to change,” while suggesting that Leinster won’t either – Sexton and scrum-half Luke McGrath will be looking to control the tempo in blue.

“They are very good at hanging onto the ball and prepared to go an inch at a time and are prepared to ask questions,” said Rennie of Leinster. “We have to hunt well.

“They have slick starter moves over the first two or three phases so we have done a fair bit of work around that. I’m sure they will have other things up their sleeve.”

With an enviable starting XV boosted by the introduction of Sexton, fullback Rob Kearney and second row Scott Fardy – albeit with the influential Devin Toner ruled out through injury – Leinster have plenty of weapons with which to defend their trophy.

Their back row of Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan was sublime against Munster in the semi-final, while the front row of Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong and Sean Cronin combined for a stunning try.

Jack Conan, Jonathan Sexton, Nick McCarthy and Josh Van Der Flier Leinster during yesterday's captain's run. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

James Ryan will deliver a huge tackle and carry count today, as ever, while Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose will be keen to dominate the midfield against Glasgow’s second playmaker Sam Johnson and the powerful Kyle Steyn.

Rennie underlined that, as well as their attacking skills, both sides pride themselves on their “brutality” and stated his belief that Glasgow can go toe-to-toe with Leinster in that regard.

“It’s something we’ve been striving for all year,” said the former Chiefs boss. “We’ve talked about not wanting to be an east-west side. So you’ve got to have a decent enough pack for a start, good at lineout and scrum.

“Our maul is as good as anyone in the competition. We’ve probably scored more tries than most in the past ten weeks. We try to have an edge about us, be prepared to go through the middle of teams and shake their defence.”

For Leinster, this evening represents the opportunity to ensure they finish the season with a trophy after the disappointment of that European defeat to Saracens in Newcastle.

“There were so many learnings from the Saracens game that we took and, like I said after the game, we’d love to go back and play it again,” said Sexton.

“But we do have another final and we spoke last week about making sure we put in the best performance to get us to another final so we could try and right the wrongs from the Saracens game, when it came down to some small margins and then some big decisions.

“We just have to make sure that we are on the right side of those decisions and we take our chances when we can.”

Sexton and Cullen expect Glasgow to “play from everywhere,” particularly with fullback Stuart Hogg lining out for the Warriors for the final time before his move to Exeter Chiefs, while the consistent Tommy Seymour and DTH van der Merwe will be dangerous on the wings.

Funnily enough, Rennie was something of an influence on Cullen towards the end of his playing career, as the Leinster man began to plan for life after hanging up his boots.

Callum Gibbins and Jonathan Sexton Glasgow captain Callum Gibbins with Leinster skipper Johnny Sexton. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cullen spent a week with the Chiefs in 2014 and took plenty away from Rennie’s camp.

“I couldn’t speak highly enough of Dave and how he allowed me into their set-up, allowed me access to everything really,” said Cullen.

“It was an amazing experience for me. I learned so much – how you actually deal with people coming in, and how I was made feel by Dave and all his coaching team at the time.

“He had me around to his house for dinner and I’ve tried to stay in contact since. I learned a huge amount about the way they played. I watched a lot of the Chiefs games at the time and they won back-to-back Super Rugby titles in that period.”

 “Wayne Smith was coaching there as well, and Tom Coventry, so they had a huge amount of experience and just even the model that was set up and how they went about things in the background, it’s something that I took a lot from.”

Cullen and Rennie might share a beer afterwards but there won’t be love lost for the couple of hours it takes to decide tonight’s encounter.

Leinster are favourites and have all the skills required but Glasgow’s home advantage and improvements under Rennie might just see them edge it.

Glasgow:

15. Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Kyle Steyn
12. Sam Johnson
11. DTH van der Merwe
10. Adam Hastings
9. Ali Price

1. Jamie Bhatti
2. Fraser Brown
3. Zander Fagerson
4. Scott Cummings
5. Jonny Gray
6. Rob Harley
7. Callum Gibbins (captain)
8. Matt Fagerson

Replacements:

16. Grant Stewart
17. Oli Kebble
18. Siua Halanukonuka
19. Ryan Wilson
20. Tom Gordon
21. George Horne
22. Pete Horne
23. Huw Jones

Leinster:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Luke McGrath

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

Replacements:

16. Bryan Byrne
17. Ed Byrne
18. Andrew Porter 
19. Ross Molony 
20. Max Deegan
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Ross Byrne 
23. Rory O’Loughlin

Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU].

Gavan Casey is joined by Ryan Bailey and Andy Dunne to look ahead to Saturday’s Pro14 final, look at whether Joey Carbery’s move has paid off and Jack Conan talks about how his body is holding up.:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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