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Preview: Glasgow v Ospreys

27th March 2014 10:29

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Josh Strauss of Glasgow Warriors is tackled by Damian Welsh of Exeter Chiefs

Number eight: Josh Strauss

Finn Russell has been handed his fourth start for the Warriors, lining up at centre alongside Alex Dunbar for Friday's crucial RaboDirect Pro12 match against the Ospreys at Scotstoun Stadium.

Ospreys are currently fourth and the Warriors are fifth in the Pro12, with just four points separating the sides. Glasgow have two home games in hand against Treviso and Edinburgh as they look to try and secure a play-off place.

Gregor Townsend has made three changes to the side that defeated Scarlets 14-6 at Scotstoun last Saturday.

Peter Murchie continues at full-back and Tommy Seymour and Niko Matawalu keep their places on either wing.

21-year-old Russell comes in at inside centre with Dunbar moving outside in place of Richie Vernon, who has been named among the replacements.

Duncan Weir and captain Chris Cusiter continue their half-back partnership.

Pat MacArthur comes in for Dougie Hall at hooker and he'll play alongside props Jon Welsh and Gordon Reid in the front row. Leone Nakarawa replaces the injured Tim Swinson in the second-row and partners Jonny Gray.

There are no changes to the back row with Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Josh Strauss all keeping their places in the starting XV.

The Warriors welcome back Scotland international Ryan Wilson, who has been named on the bench, while Sean Maitland continues his comeback from injury as a replacement.

"This is our biggest game of the season so far with valuable league points up for grabs," said Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend.

"It was an important win for us last weekend because Scarlets were one place below us in the league and tomorrow we play the team that are one place above us, so this is a crucial game.

"Ospreys are a very physical side with a number of good playmakers in their backs so we'll have to be at our best defensively. Like any game against a top side, we'll have to seize any opportunity that comes our way.

"We are well aware of the huge challenge we face tomorrow night and we're looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd at Scotstoun and the Glasgow support will have a key role to play."

Meanwhile, Hanno Dirksen and James King come into the Ospreys starting XV as Sam Lewis makes his 50th appearance for the region.

"This is a massive game for us and the group are under no illusions of the size of the task ahead over next couple of months," said Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy.

"We are in fourth place at the moment but Glasgow are breathing down our necks with a couple of games in hand, which makes it more important than ever that we go there on Friday night and are on top of our game in all areas. Every player will need to know their role, pay attention to detail and be clinical in everything they do. There is absolutely no margin for error if we want to keep hold of a play-off spot so we know what we've got to do.

"It's all building up to be a real exciting end of season and we want to be involved right til the end. We realise that there is a lot of expectation on our shoulders being the only team from Wales in the mix again but that comes with being an Osprey and the boys have to stand up when the pressure is on.

"This is a young group of players and that makes this all the more exciting. We have a back line with an average age of 23, and it's only 25 in the forwards. They may be young, but there is considerable experience despite the age, and what is really exciting is that their best days are ahead of them.

"We know what this group can do. We are trying to develop a style of rugby that will excite fans and there have been a few glimpses in recent weeks of how that is coming along. It's important now that they back it up on Friday night with a winning performance when it really matters.

"Looking further ahead, there's a lot to be positive about with this group of players, in terms how they will serve the region and develop together as a team. For now though, it's all about Glasgow."

Form: Glasgow Warriors have won their last two matches at Scotstoun but have not managed to score more than two tries in a game at the venue in any match this season. The most recent RaboDirect PRO12 fixture featuring the Warriors to yield a try bonus point for either side came when the Ospreys last visited Scotstoun in round 21 last season. Ospreys have slipped to four straight away defeats in all competitions and have not won outside of Wales since a trip to Connacht in the PRO12 in September. The Welshmen's only victory in their last eight visits to Scotland since 2009 came when they beat Edinburgh 15-14 at Murrayfield in February 2012. Glasgow have won their last five contests with Ospreys whilst the Welsh region's most recent victory in Glasgow came on a trip to Firhill in September 2009.

The teams:

Glasgow: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Finn Russell, 11 Niko Matawalu, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Leone Nakawara, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Moray Low, 19 Ryan Wilson, 20 Tyrone Holmes, 21 Ruaridh Jackson, 22 Richie Vernon, 23 Sean Maitland

Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Hanno Dirksen, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Lewis, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 James King, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Tyler Ardron, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Joe Bearman, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Richard Fusell

Date: Friday, March 28
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Venue: Scotstoun Stadium
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, TBC (both SRU)
Citing Commissioner: Paul Minto (SRU)

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1Toulon624
2Cardiff Blues614
3Exeter612
4Glasgow Warriors611