Glasgow Warriors handed potential Pro12 lifeline against weakened Munster

Richard Bath
The Telegraph
Gregor Townsend - REUTERS
Gregor Townsend - REUTERS

Gregor Townsend, the Glasgow head coach, sought to take the blame for his side’s poor display in the Champions Cup quarter-final at Saracens, promising that the Warriors will be more competitive in Saturday night’s game against Munster in Cork. 

Glasgow realistically need to win all four of their remaining Pro12 games – which includes a visit to Dublin to play Leinster – if they are to have any chance of making the play-offs for the sixth successive season.

“We have to make sure we are able to impose our game on Munster because we didn’t do that against Saracens last week and as much as that defeat is really frustrating and disappointing, a lot of that was down to me and the preparation,” said Townsend. 

“We focused more on Saracens than ourselves, so in my role as head coach we didn’t get it right, which means we didn’t show a true reflection of ourselves – and that’s what we’ve got to do in Cork.”

So far this season, Munster have already beaten Glasgow three times, including twice at Scotstoun in painfully-close contests by one and two points respectively, but home coach Rassie Erasmus has made 10 changes and named a much-weakened side. 

There is a new centre partnership, an all-new front row, a debutant at blindside in Jean Deysel, and an academy player at openside in Conor Oliver. 

A quartet of key players – CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Tommy O’Donnell and Keith Earls – are given the weekend off, while usual starters Simon Zebo, Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony and Rory Scannell are named on the bench.

Given that Munster, who are second in the Pro12 table but just four points ahead of Ospreys, have rested so many of their frontline players, this is an unexpected opportunity for a Glasgow side who are virtually at full strength.

<span>Munster have rested several key players</span> <span>Credit: REX FEATURES </span>
Munster have rested several key players Credit: REX FEATURES


The last time Glasgow visited the Irish province it was the first game after the death of Munster legend Anthony Foley and the Warriors were swept away on a wave of emotion, losing 38-17. 

Playing in Cork, far away from the cauldron of Limerick’s Thomond Park, which always seems to bring out the best in Munster, is also a blessing for Glasgow.

“There is a determination to do better than we did against Saracens and a determination against opposition that have beaten us three times this season already,” said Townsend. “There’s a determination to still be in the mix going into our next game. 

"What we want to see is players playing with full commitment, full clarity on how we play, and giving it everything. If we see that and still lose we’ll say, ‘well done’ to the opposition, but we want to be fully committed and able to play our game.

<span>This is Gregor Townsend's final season at Glasgow</span> <span>Credit: REX FEATURES </span>
This is Gregor Townsend's final season at Glasgow Credit: REX FEATURES

“For Munster, securing a home semi-final is a huge carrot because no team has won away in a semi-final in the play-offs. They still have another game next week before the European semi-final, so they have loaded their bench as they try to manage their starters. But obviously, they still want a strong squad to win this game.

“I felt we played really well in the last game against them, and we created chances to score, but we just didn’t take them. So, a similar level of intensity and accuracy will put us in a very good position – but that is easier said than done. 

“They are an excellent team, they’ve got a very good set-piece, and they’ve got a defence that is very effective.”

Although Glasgow are missing Zander Fagerson, who Townsend does not expect to be back before the final game of the season against Edinburgh, there are no other new injuries, allowing the Warriors coach to name a strong side boasting over 1,500 Glasgow appearances across the match-day squad. 

The only major changes are tactical ones, with Ali Price starting at scrum-half in place of Henry Prygos, while Peter Horne also moves to the bench to make way for Nick Grigg. Jonny Gray, who lost a tooth and was concussed against Saracens, returns to lead a side seeking a third Pro12 win on the bounce.

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