Leinster quality should see off battling Glasgow

THERE is rarely anything ho-hum about the Heineken Cup but Leinster have come close to reducing Pool 3 to a predictable script and they will be expected to wrap up qualification for the last eight in Glasgow tomorrow.

Breathtaking at home, they have admittedly had to roll up their sleeves in Montpellier and Bath and Joe Schmidt’s men will clock in for another tricky shift at Firhill, on a narrow pitch, against a side seeking to join them in the open prairies of the knockout stages.

There is nothing to suggest the champions won’t seal another win in Scotland, however. Their form has been superb, their performances good without being great, which should do more than anything to keep complacency from the door.

Schmidt has lost Luke Fitzgerald to a combination of glute and neck injuries while Richardt Strauss has been given another weekend off to top up his conditioning. But Leinster possess an abundance of depth and quality and will hardly suffer for it.

The only minor surprise to the starting XV is that it resembles what is now considered the province’s ‘home’ side in Europe, with Eoin Reddan at nine rather than the more robust Isaac Boss, who normally starts on foreign soil.

Facing them is a side that requires nothing less than four points to keep their Heineken ambitions afloat but coach Sean Lineen hasn’t been helped by the absence of out-half Ruaridh Jackson and props Moray Low and Michael Cusack.

The latter pair are arguably greater losses as 20-year-old Duncan Weir has deputised admirably for Jackson for much of the season and was one of 10 players rested last week when the Warriors fell to a narrow defeat against the Scarlets in Wales.

With John Barclay at eight and Chris Fusaro — “a small nuggety guy”, according to Leinster assistant coach Greg Feek — called in at seven, Glasgow are clearly seeking to rectify the problems they suffered at the breakdown in the RDS.

“What a challenge we’ve got ahead of us,” said Lineen yesterday, “against a side who have set new standards for the rest of Europe in what they do at the contact area and how many good decisions they make right across the park.”

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