Tuesday 25 October 2016

Glasgow still have plenty of room for improvement, warns Townsend

Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30

Senior coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Senior coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

As starts to the season go, Glasgow Warriors could hardly have asked for a tougher opening but the relative ease at which they swatted aside the defending champions last week sent out a clear warning to the rest of the league.

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While Leinster also began their campaign with a win against Treviso, it was far less comfortable than it should have been.

Life without Kurt McQuilkin begins in Scotstoun this afternoon and Gregor Townsend will no doubt be looking to exploit any defensive frailties that may have been left behind after the Kiwi's departure.

Stuart Lancaster's exact role is one that remains murky but for now at least, Leo Cullen has made it clear that he will take control of defensive matters.

Glasgow were comfortably last season's top points scorers (557) as well try scorers (68) and as tough as their start to the season is, Lancaster faces an equally tough task in attempting to quell their attacking threat.

Stuart Hogg was back to his best against Connacht, while Tommy Seymour again proved that he is a devastating finisher.

Lancaster is not a recognised defence coach and during his time with England, he relied on the expertise of the highly regarded Andy Farrell.

He will undoubtedly have his hands full today but nevertheless, it may well prove to be a shrewd appointment by Leinster. The next nine months will be telling.

Cullen has recalled Dave Kearney to his starting line-up as the winger has fully recovered from the shoulder injury that ruled him out of Ireland's summer tour of South Africa.

Jordi Murphy is another returning international and he is named at No 8 while the third change to last week's team sees hooker James Tracy come in.

Joey Carbery is again handed the reins at out-half and he faces the biggest test of his fledgling career up against a potent Glasgow backline.

Mike McCarthy continues in the second-row and he is under no illusions as to the scale of the task that lies ahead.

"I think they would have been hurting," McCarthy maintained.

"Their last two games last season would have been against Connacht and they lost both of those games in Galway. There was no way Gregor Townsend and the players would have settled for a third away loss there.

"They were very good (against Connacht). Their team has stars in every position. Let's not forget how good they were last season and the season before that when they won. So we need to be at our best."

This afternoon's clash will be the first time that Glasgow have played a competitive game on their new artificial 4G surface but Leinster are unlikely to be fazed by playing on it, especially after recently playing Bath in a pre-season friendly in Donnybrook.

"We were pleased with aspects of our game last weekend and it was good to start with a win, but there has been plenty to work on in training this week," Townsend said ominously.

"We always have some really good contests with Leinster and they will be coming to Glasgow with confidence following their win against Treviso.

"We're expecting a capacity crowd of more than 7,000 and we're looking forward to being back home, playing on the new pitch for the first time in front of our own supporters."

It's been nine years since Leinster last began a season with back-to-back victories.

They may find it tough to end that streak in what promises to be a titanic battle in Scotstoun this afternoon.

Verdict: Glasgow

Glasgow Warriors - S Hogg; L Sarto, A Dunbar, S Johnson, T Seymour; P Horne, H Pyrgos (co-capt); G Reid, F Brown, S Puafisi; T Swinson, J Gray (co-capt); R Harley, S Favaro, R Wilson. Reps: C Flynn, A Allan, Z Fagerson, R Uanivi, L Wynne, A Price, R Clegg, L Jones.

Leinster - R Kearney; F McFadden, G Ringrose, N Reid, D Kearney; J Carbery, L McGrath (capt); C Healy, J Tracy, M Bent; M McCarthy, R Molony; D Leavy, J van der Flier, J Murphy. Reps: B Byrne, P Dooley, T Furlong, M Kearney, D Ryan, J Gibson Park, C Marsh, Z Kirchner.

REF - J Lacey (IRFU)

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