Tuesday 16 January 2018

Reds seek physical release after emotional turmoil

Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Live, Sky Sports 3, 1.0

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend (right) and his assistant Dan McFarland at Anthony Foley’s funeral. Photo: Sportsfile
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend (right) and his assistant Dan McFarland at Anthony Foley’s funeral. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Most teams have a Captain's Run on the eve of big games like this. Munster went to a funeral.

This is the awful context in which they must somehow perform a miracle match like no other in their history, and there have been so many.

Truly, it is understandable that nothing can be expected of men who know not what they can hope to expect of themselves.

As much as this is the last thing the team would want to do, it might, for 80 minutes at least, be the physical release that could be most welcome after such an emotionally exhausting and unprecedented week.

Glasgow Warriors have been fully briefed as to the terms of emotional engagement, and their admirable response will be to ensure that there will emanate from them the maximum in terms of physical engagement.

Their approach will be indicative of the enormous respect decreed for such a day as this.

"Obviously, there will be poignancy, but there will be a lot of noise," says Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend. "There will be a feeling of togetherness. You'll see lots of red jerseys in the crowd and you'll see the team come together. We are expecting a difficult game."

Nobody knows how difficult it will be.

Analysis of trends or statistics seems almost irrelevant but some of the rugby truths bequeathed by Foley will still apply, the maintenance, as much as practicable, of calmness under the pressure of suffocating emotion.

The willingness to complete every new task with a commitment that is total and absolute, taking nothing for granted whether it be a pass or a tackle.

Having completed his return to play protocols for a concussion sustained against Leinster earlier this month, Keith Earls returns and starts on the left wing.

Tyler Bleyendaal and Darren Sweetnam will make their European debuts, while academy prop Brian Scott could also do so after being named on the bench.

Glasgow make two changes from the side that opened their campaign in such terrific style at Scotstoun last week in dispatching former champions Leicester Tigers with a five-try, 42-13 success that confirmed their status as dark horses in this campaign should they emerge from this fiendishly difficult pool.

Scottish international Sean Lamont replaces Leonardo Sarto on the right wing and fellow international three-quarter Alex Dunbar, who was a late withdrawal eight days ago due to illness, will start at outside-centre

Sam Johnson joins Dunbar in midfield, while Rory Hughes maintains his place on the left wing and Stuart Hogg once again starts at full-back.

Co-captain Henry Pyrgos and Finn Russell will again combine at half-back behind an unchanged pack.

Gordon Reid, who had a 100th cap to remember last Friday, is again joined by Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson in the Warriors front-row.

Tim Swinson and co-captain Jonny Gray start at lock with the back-row of Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson and Josh Strauss completing the starting XV.

On the bench, Italy international Simone Favaro could return to action for the first time since sustaining an injury against Leinster in September.

Full-back Peter Murchie is also included this week, having been named amongst the replacements against Leicester.

Glasgow won on their first ever trip to Ireland in the competition, against Ulster in 1997, but have lost all four since by an average margin of 23 points.

Munster and Glasgow will meet in Europe for the first time, despite being two of just 10 teams to have played over 100 games in the competition.

This will be a unique occasion, then, in so many ways. To the brave and faithful men of Munster, nothing has ever seemed impossible. Perhaps only this. Playing will be a victory in itself.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - S Zebo; D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, D Ryan, B Holland, P O'Mahony (capt), TO'Donnell, CJ Stander. Reps: D Casey, B Scott, S Archer, R Copeland, J O'Donoghue, D Williams, I Keatley, R O'Mahony.

Glasgow Warriors - S Hogg; S Lamont, A Dunbar, S Johnson, R Hughes; F Russell, H Pyrgos; G Reid, F Brown, Z Fagerson, T Swinson, J Gray (capt), R Harley, R Wilson, J Strauss. Reps: P MacArthur, A Allan, S Puafisi, L Wynne, S Favaro, A Price, M Bennett, P Murchie.

Ref - J Garces (France)

Irish Independent

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