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Preview: Leinster v Glasgow

09th May 2013 18:10

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Escape: Cian Healy

Challenge Cup finalists Leinster will host the impressive Glasgow Warriors in Saturday's RaboDirect Pro12 semi-final in Dublin.

No other side has scored more tries this season than Glasgow (66) and Leinster (63).

Both sides arrive at the semi-final stage in rich veins of form - Leinster having won 12 of their last 14 matches, Glasgow ten of their last 12. One of Glasgow's most recent losses includes a 22-17 defeat to Leinster also at the RDS.

The star that day, as he has been for most of this season, was Ian Madigan.

Having shone all too brilliantly in his cameos appearances during the Six Nations, Madigan has improved as the season has progressed, effortlessly pulling the strings during Leinster's Challenge Cup quarter-final away to London Wasps.

Finishing the season as the league's top points scorer, Madigan has offered a glimpse of life after Johnny Sexton. It looks rosy.

Heineken Cup disappointment may still sting Leinster after having won three of the last four titles, but a cup double is now on the cards.

With Sexton and coach Joe Schmidt departing along with Isa Nacewa, an era is ending in the Irish capital. Clinching the Challenge Cup and a RaboDirect Pro12 title - a competition in which they have lost the last three finals - would be an ideal send-off.

Glasgow however are not to be sniffed at. The Ospreys aside, no other team has conceded fewer tries in the Pro12 this season than Glasgow's 30. For reference, the Dragons let in 72.

Edinburgh may have carried the torch for Scottish rugby last season with a first ever Heineken Cup semi-final, but now their local rivals have made waves.

Glasgow are packed with exciting talent - including young Scots in the form of Sean Maitland, Ryan Grant, Duncan Weir and the British and Irish Lions secret weapon Stuart Hogg.

It has been the acquisition of Fijian scrum-half Niko Matawalu however that has spurred the Warriors onto greater things. His recent contract extension indicates long-term success.

Defeats of five and six points against Leinster this season can give Glasgow hope pulling off a famous win. They have thoroughly earned their opportunity.

Form: This is Leinster's fourth successive home Play-Off game at the RDS, all of which they have won. In fact the Leinstermen have won their last six semi-final fixtures in all competitions. Leinster's only loss in the RaboDirect POR12 since round 11 was 18-22 at home to Ulster on 30th March. Leinster are unbeaten in their last ten encounters against Scottish opponents in all tournaments since Glasgow Warriors won 23-19 at the RDS in the PRO12 on 17th September 2011. This is Glasgow Warriors second successive appearance in the Play-Offs, and a repeat of last year's fixture at this stage when they also faced Leinster at the RDS, but went down 15-19. The Warriors have won three of their last four contests with Irish provinces. Leinster are unbeaten in their last six clashes with the Warriors in all competitions whilst Glasgow have been victorious only once in nine previous visits to the RDS.

Players to watch:

For Leinster: His playing days are numbered, but Isa Nacewa is loved as much as ever in Dublin. The back-three star will return to New Zealand at the end of the season with a healthy collection of medals in his suitcase. He has been outstanding and Zane Kirchner will have his work cut out to replace him.

For Glasgow: With the Lions coaches singing his praises last week, Stuart Hogg gives Glasgow an edge of X Factor in the back three that other sides would love to possess. Deployed in his natural position of full-back.

Head-to-Head: Favoured by many to tour with the Lions but both left behind, the scrummaging battle between Mike Ross and Ryan Grant will prove key. Injuries could see either one find themselves on a plane to Australia.

Prediction: Tight as it has been this season between these, but Leinster to hold out at the RDS. Leinster by five!

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien/Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Shane Jennings/Rhys Ruddock, 21 John Cooney, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Andrew Conway.

Glasgow: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 DTH Van der Merwe, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 Ryan Wilson (c), 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Al Kellock, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Moray Low, 18 Ed Kalman, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Mark Bennett

Date: Saturday, May 11
Kick-off: 19:35 BST
Venue: RDS, Dublin
Referee: Pascal Gauzere
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea, Giuseppe Vivarini
TMO: Carlo Damasco

by Ben Coles
@bencoles_

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