Provinces dominate PRO12 play-offs
May 16, 2014
A loss on Saturday for Leinster would be Brian O'Driscoll's final appearance before retirement © Getty Images
It's the Ireland show in the PRO12 this weekend as three provinces dominate the semi-final match-ups. Leinster, Munster and Ulster will be eyeing the final on May 31 with relish after all missing out on a shot at Heineken Cup glory. Glasgow Warriors are the foreigners hoping to crash the Irish party as they look to bring some much-needed joy to the beleaguered fans of Scottish rugby.
ESPN previews the action ahead of kick-off as four become two in the race for the PRO12 crown.
Glasgow Warriors v Munster RugbyFriday, Scotstoun, 7.35pm
Form: Glasgow Warriors (home) WWWWW ; Munster Rugby (away) WWLLW
Glasgow have hit form at exactly the right time, winning their last eight PRO12 matches in their best ever sequence in the history of the tournament. In fact, they have not lost at Scotstoun since Heineken Cup finalists Toulon defeated them on January 18.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has rung the changes for the semi-final, with Peter Murchie replacing Stuart Hogg at fullback and Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour coming in on the wings. Mark Bennett replaces Peter Horne at outside centre, while Finn Russell takes Duncan Weir's place at fly-half and Chris Cusiter replaces Henry Pyrgos at scrum-half.
In the pack, Dougie Hall comes in for Pat MacArthur at hooker and Jon Welsh replaces Moray Low at tight-head. Rob Harley and Josh strauss take back-row spots and, fresh from being named the PRO12 young player of the year, Jonny Gray replaces Tim Swinson and lines up alongside captain Al Kellock in the second-row.
Munster have made four changes of their own and will be fired up to take their second bite of the semi-final apple this season. The province were knocked out of the Heineken Cup by Toulon last month and have a tough task at the fortress that is Scotstoun, but they won't be giving up a second shot at a final without a fight.
Leinster Rugby v Ulster RugbySaturday, RDS Arena, 7.00pm
Form: Leinster Rugby (home) WWWWW ; Ulster Rugby (away) WLLWW
Saturday's semi-final sees a repeat of last year's final as two Irish heavyweights collide at the RDS. Leinster were victors that afternoon, winning the title 24-18, but Ulster will be desperate to take revenge and prevent a Leinster procession to the final.
The PRO12 powerhouse that is Leinster rumbles on, with the province playing in their fifth successive home semi-final. They remain the only undefeated side at home this season and recent wins over Edinburgh and Treviso prove they can see out tight games while also obliterating opponents when given half a chance. With talisman Brian O'Driscoll retiring at the end of the season, his team-mates will do all they can to prevent his career ending in disappointment.
Ulster though should not go into Saturday's clash without hope. The last team to inflict defeat on Leinster at home were the Ulstermen in March last year and the province came within three points of victory against their rivals at Ravenhill earlier this month. Regardless of retiring legends, there will be no room for sentimentality on Saturday.
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