Tuesday 22 January 2019

Connacht's fast start to the season is poised to hit speed bump in Glasgow

Glasgow Warriors v Connacht

(Scotstoun, Tonight 7.35)

As they say in boxing, 'someone's 'O' has to go' as second host third in the PRO12 League.

Coach Gregor Townsend has drummed up all the warnings he can in order to keep Glasgow on point about the potential banana skin Connacht present tonight.

He said: "Connacht are one of the form teams in the league right now and had an impressive win against Leinster last weekend which, combined with their win away in Toulouse last season, shows the progress that they are making under Pat Lam."

Townsend is backing up his words with a stacked selection, led by the returning Al Kellock, Irish signing James Downey, the skilled Mark Bennett, and Stuart Hogg.

For their part, Connacht have nothing to lose in a match they are expected to lose, the Scottish club losing just one of its last 13 matches in this League.

This is already the western province's best ever start to a season. The way they stayed with and overtook Leinster reflects the level of confidence they have in their game-plan.

Coach Lam makes five changes to his fifteen, bringing forth the highest-capped player in the League, Michael Swift, tight-head Rodney Ah You, and number eight George Naoupu.

Ireland's Robbie Henshaw and back-rower Eoin McKeon will both make their 50th appearance for Connacht, as Danie Poolman returns from illness and Ian Porter steps into scrum-half.

Glasgow: S Hogg; S Lamont, M Bennett, J Downey, DTH van der Merwe; D Weir, H Pyrgos; G Reid, P MacArthur, E Murray, T Swinson, A Kellock (capt), R Harley, C Fusaro, A Ashe.

Connacht: D Leader; D Poolman, R Henshaw, D McSharry, M Healy; J Carty, I Porter; D Buckley, D Heffernan, R Ah You, M Swift, A Muldowney, J Muldoon (capt), E McKeon, G Naoupu.

Verdict: Glasgow.

Munster v The Ospreys

(Thomond Park, Tomorrow 6.30m, Sky Sports 2)

The Ospreys are on a roll. They have won their first three, two of them with bonus points, to hold a positive points difference of 82 and lead the League.

When they get into gear, it can feel like standing in front of a juggernaut.

Then again, there is nothing coach Anthony Foley liked more than taking someone down a peg or two.

For all of that, Munster team have not won three on the spin since February, even though they worked their way to a won seven, lost one record against the Welsh regions last season.

In fact, Munster are unbeaten in their last there encounters with the Ospreys, since the Welshmen's victory at Liberty Stadium in September 2012, and the leaders have won just once in Limerick since April 2010.

Verdict: Munster.

Zebre v Ulster

(Stadio XXV Aprile, Tomorrow 4.0, BBC NI)

Statistics can be damning or inspiring, in equal measure, depending on whether you can turn them to your advantage.

Take Zebre, for instance. The Italians have failed to beat even one of the Irish provinces in their 22 previous attempts in this competition. This is damning evidence.

They have also lost all three of their PRO12 matches this season without even a losing bonus-point.

Ulster are one of four clubs who have not felt the pain of failure, although they were held to a draw at the Scarlets.

This will complete the home and away matches between these two as Ulster handed Zebre a 33-13 lesson at Kingspan Stadium two weeks ago.

Verdict: Ulster.

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