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Bristling Warriors will be ready to move on Munster

Gregor Townsend desperately wants to put his side in the knock-out stages before departing for the international stage.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THERE IS NO more appetising fixture in this European rugby weekend.

Munster go to Glasgow this afternoon (17.30, Sky Sports) with a three-point buffer to work with, but on their home synthetic turf, the Warriors are a team to be feared. And make no mistake, they have an intense longing for the European knock-out stages themselves.

Gregor Townsend will leave the club at the end of this season to take a promotion into the Scottish head coach role. His time in Glasgow has been a period of complete positive transformation. From the move out of the football ground of Firhill in favour of establishing a true home in Scotstoun, to the implementation of an exciting brand of rugby that helped them raise expectations to threaten and then break the Irish-Welsh dominance of the Pro12 by comprehensively beating Munster in the final.

The one big tick missing from Townsend’s list of goals is a place in Europe’s knock-out rounds.

Munster may be in the Pool 1 driver’s seat, but Glasgow can force their way back to the top of the table today by winning while denying the southern province any bonus points.

As befits Townsend’s overall demeanour, the Warriors were perfectly respectful when they were the unfortunate team left to face a Munster team fuelled by grief and anguish in October.

However, while they took a beating from 14 men with good grace that day, there has been some evidence of a sour taste in the mouth since.

After losing a Pro12 tussle at home to an Ian Keatley drop-goal in December, Fraser Brown previewed his return to Champions Cup action by raising his ‘disappointment’ – as scathing a word as modern professionals will reach for – with an interview where Keith Earls suggested the hooker had ‘milked’ the incident brought a red card for the Moyross man on an emotional day at Thomond Park. A quick investigation prompted Earls to apologise and retract the words. He did. We all moved on.

Rassie Erasmus and Gregor Townsend ahead of the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Warriors will be utterly fired up to exact some retribution for the hammering in Limerick, though. They have forced their way back into the Pro12 top four while stringing five straight wins together since back-to-back home defeats to Ospreys and Munster, yet Rassie Erasmus’ men have the form book firmly on their side.

December’s defeat away to Leicester ended their brilliant seven-game unbeaten run. Yet the late narrow loss remains Munster’s only defeat in 11 and they are growing in confidence and precision with each passing week.

Win today, put one hand a home quarter-final berth and there’s no telling where that rediscovered belief might take them.

Glasgow Warriors:

15. Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Mark Bennett
12. Alex Dunbar
11. Lee Jones
10. Finn Russell
9. Ali Price

1. Gordon Reid
2. Fraser Brown
3. Zander Fagerson
4. Tim Swinson
5. Jonny Gray (captain)
6. Rob Harley
7. Ryan Wilson
8. Josh Strauss

Replacements:

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16. Pat MacArthur
17. Alex Allan
18. D’arcy Rae
19. Matt Fagerson
20. Chris Fusaro
21. Grayson Hart
22. Nick Grigg
23. Peter Murchie

Munster:

15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Conway
13. Jaco Taute
12. Rory Scannell
11. Keith Earls
10. Tyler Bleyendaal
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Donnacha Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Jack O’Donoghue
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Rhys Marshall
17. James Cronin
18. Thomas Du Toit
19. Dave Foley
20. Billy Holland
21. Duncan Williams
22. Ian Keatley
23. Francis Saili

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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