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Townsend demanding focus

Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend is adopting a more "low-key" approach to their second consecutive Guinness Pro12 final after sensing his players were affected by the occasion last season.

Glasgow fell to a 34-12 defeat by Leinster at their opponents' RDS Arena ground in Dublin 12 months ago and Townsend is getting his players to focus more on the game this time round when they face Munster in Belfast on Saturday.

Townsend said: " I have certainly seen more of a focus this year on what we need to do on the game. We prepared well and trained well last year but we also had a focus on the occasion - the fact so many Glasgow supporters went out. We had a big send-off, we took in the occasion, which was a great experience.

"But it's important this time that we focus on the 80 minutes. If that was the reason why we rushed things at times, why we didn't show more control, then it was the fact that we played the occasion, but it could have been down to other reasons. But, certainly from what we have learned, emotional control will be very important on Saturday."

Townsend's preparations for the Kingspan Stadium have been geared towards making sure they do not repeat the same mistakes.

"From a coaching perspective, we are certainly preparing as if we are playing Munster in the league," he said.

"We realise there will be a big crowd and a lot of Glasgow supporters but we are not going to focus on that. But also the players themselves have the experience of playing in a final. So it's not new to them, it was new to them last year.

"They will remember the emotions they had last year and what they need to do to make sure it gets channelled to a better performance.

"We are trying to be as low key as possible. Afterwards we can take in the atmosphere and during the game we can appreciate the noise both sets of fans are making."

Glasgow beat Munster by one point in last year's semi-final and the teams have been equally matched this season, with one win apiece in their meetings, and both finishing on 75 points in the top two places in the league.

And Townsend believes Anthony Foley's side are approaching the form that saw them win the Heineken Cup in 2006 and 2008.

The former Scotland international said: "They are more like the Munster of old than at any time in the last five years. They are coached by someone who played when they won European Cups and they have gone back to the traditional Munster way of playing, which is uncompromising in the contact area, really direct, winning the gain line, strong set-piece. They have always produced excellent forwards.

"They pick a passing 10 and have some great strike runners out wide. But their game is based on winning the collision and forcing opposition to give up penalties so they can go to line-out drives, which they are very strong at. We know that Munster playing to their strengths are one of the best teams in Europe."

Townsend has lost prop Ryan Grant to a chest injury but his team have otherwise been unscathed by their bruising win over Ulster last weekend.

Departing Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe has been handed a start at the expense of Niko Matawalu following his late try against Ulster, while Dougie Hall will make his final appearance for the Warriors at hooker.

Gordon Reid replaces Grant at loosehead, while Fijian second row Leone Nakarawa replaces Al Kellock and Rob Harley also comes in. Josh Strauss will captain the side with Kellock on the bench in his last Glasgow outing.


From Belfast Telegraph