Belfast Telegraph

Warriors ready for battle after learning lessons

By Michael Sadlier

It's the PRO12's 'Super Saturday' with all manner of scenarios at play, though Glasgow Warriors go into this afternoon's shoot-out for a home semi-final with the added comfort blanket of having to deliver a result at their Scotstoun fortress while up against a seriously under-powered Ulster.

It wasn't entirely part of Gregor Townsend's plan though. A filthy night in Swansea, and a performance to match the conditions, put the Warriors where they didn't want to be with one regular season game remaining - namely still very much part of today's all-out scrap to be a home semi-finalist.

They need to win and have to aim at delivering a bonus point too. It's doable and Townsend's side surely won't be as sloppy again as they face a radically altered Ulster side at a sold-out and expectant Scotstoun which has an expanded capacity of 10,000.

And there is also the added, but not primary, motivation of ensuring Neil Doak's men have to go on the road for their semi-final - where no-one has yet triumphed in five years. Indeed, the last thing either Glasgow, the Ospreys or Munster want in their plan to make the final is to be facing Ulster in their own backyard.

If there is pressure to be had it is on the Warriors who were expected to probably pull through even before Doak announced his starting side. But with a pretty bullet-proof record at Scotstoun, Townsend will be expecting a performance to put last Friday's limp display firmly to bed while also hoping that they can stay in Glasgow for next weekend.

Of course, this clash also happens to be the only game pitching two sides together who are involved in the top four's joust to finish in first or second position, but the visitors turning up so under strength suggests that this may not be just as tasty an encounter as had been previously assumed.

The Warriors have a gnawing hunger for a second successive PRO12 final driving them on after last season's experience at the hands of Leinster. The Scots also say they have learned their lessons and that their consistency in making the play-offs - Glasgow have made five from six - will ultimately pay off. Time will tell.

Townsend has tweaked his side in the aftermath of the Ospreys defeat, with the powerful Sean Lamont returning to the left wing after injury with Fijian international Niko Matawalu moving aside but taking up residency at scrum-half in place of Henry Pyrgos.

Lamont's presence only further bolsters their mighty-looking back three which contains the devastating counter-attacking of Stuart Hogg and the speed of former Ulster player Tommy Seymour while they have power and guile in the midfield of Richie Vernon and Peter Horne.

As expected, Finn Russell has also been brought in to steady the ship at out-half.

Up front, Rossouw de Klerk comes in at tight-head prop while the vastly experienced Dougie Hall gets the nod at hooker.

"We will be doing all we can to reward our supporters with a home semi-final," said Townsend.

Glasgow look like they're ready to back that up.

Belfast Telegraph


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