herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Blues face fight to shatter Glas'

Schmidt's men facing difficult night in Firhill cauldron

If a good start is half the battle, a tremendous start is worth its space in elbow room, for that is what Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has created, the chance to risk a defeat here and there.

This is the reward for a 10-point lead at the top of the PRO12 League. More than that, Schmidt has given game time to any number of promising young players on the way to building an almost unassailable lead.



wolves

Schmidt has eased these youngsters in rather than thrown them to the wolves that eat young players.

The list is long. Just tonight, number eight Leo Auva'a will play for the 15th time in his first season. Lock Mark Flanagan will win the fifth of his six caps, centre Brendan Macken the seventh of his nine and fellow centre Collie O'Shea will earn his second cap.

There has also been PRO12 game time for Leinster Academy debut makers fly-half Noel Reid, wing Darren Hudson, flanker Jordi Murphy and prop Jack O'Connell.

Loose-head Jack McGrath and flanker Ciaran Ruddock are two others to feature, while injury has undermined the season for back-five forwards Ben Marshall and centre Eamonn Sheridan.

In other words, Schmidt is doing his best by the guidelines laid down by the IRFU to develop, nurture and make ready indigenous players for international rugby.

He has sprinkled this Leinster outfit with the gold dust that is Isa Nacewa and the fine qualities of scrum-half Isaac Boss, a quality front row of Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss and Nathan White, the durability of Damian Browne and the leadership of Shane Jennings.

Make no mistake, Leinster will be in for a hot reception in Firhill. There are eight Glasgow starters back from that night in September when they removed The RDS unbeaten record.

Ironically, the Irish province calls on eight players too who will recall that match with a deep sense of regret at the time. They let standards slip for one night only.



Spree

Since then, Leinster have gone on a 17-match winning spree only interrupted by that 16-all draw away to Montpellier in the Heineken Cup in November.

Is it time for Glasgow to shine again? Can Schmidt keep the winning wheels rolling forward?

It is anyone's guess in a game where the novices will have as much to say about the outcome as the old warriors, on both sides.

Glasgow: P Murchie; D Lemi, A Dunbar, T Nathan, C Shaw; R Jackson, H Pyrgos; R Grant, P MacArthur, M Cusack, N Campbell, T Ryder, R Harley (capt), C Fusaro, R Wilson.

Leinster: I Nacewa; D Kearney, B Macken, C O'Shea, F Carr; I Madigan, I Boss; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, N White, D Browne, M Flanagan, D Ryan, S Jennings (capt), L Auva'a.

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