PREVIEW: Glasgow v Scarlets
PRO14 SEMIFINAL: Defending champions Scarlets face a massive challenge in Glasgow when they face the Warriors in the first Pro14 semifinal on Friday.
Out of a possible 50 match points, Glasgow Warriors have won 49 at Scotstoun this season.
It is such incredible form that has made Glasgow Warriors home a true fortress under new coach Dave Rennie and with their artificial surface the hosts know exactly how to step on the accelerator.
But Scarlets made their name – and won last season’s title – by playing a dashing brand of rugby that is predicated on fearless offloading and hunting like a pack at the breakdown.
Scarlets' tally of 158 turnovers in the Opta rankings, is second only to Cardiff Blues (169) and players like Tadhg Beirne and James Davies will be in a position to punish any loose play by Glasgow Warriors. But in order do that, Scarlets will have to try and restrain their hosts who led the Pro14 in metres gained and clean breaks.
For Scarlets the rejuvenation led by head coach Wayne Pivac over the past couple of seasons has created a team that pays little heed to the records of others. Last season Scarlets became the first team to ever win a semifinal away from home and that will provide so much belief in this fixture.
"They've [Warriors] got a very good record at home," said Pivac.
"They play on a different surface, which they’re used to, so they have a bit of an advantage there, but it’s 80 minutes of knockout rugby. We think we’re in a reasonably good position in terms of our form going into it.
"We’re really looking forward to it. We have a lot of respect for Glasgow, they have a good coaching group, some greats players and they’ve got a very strong home record. It makes for a good match-up. Both teams like to play, use the width of the field, and with that type of play it could be a great game.
"Boys enjoy knockout rugby and they enjoy being in these situations. We’re going in there with the mindset that we need to secure a top performance to be able to get on the right side of the ledger."
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie said: "At the start of the season our goal was to be playing finals footy at home in front of our family and friends and we’re excited to be running out in front of a 10 000 strong Scotstoun tomorrow [Friday].
"We’ve prepared well and it’s great to be able to bring back Jonny [Gray], Sam [Johnson] Pete [Horne]and Tommy [Seymour] who were late withdrawals ahead of our last game."
"Scarlets are a quality side, they’re reigning Champions for a reason and we’re looking forward to the challenge on what will be a special night for our players and supporters."
Overall Pro14 head to head record:
Played 29, Warriors won 14, Scarlets won 15.
Prediction: Glasgow Warriors appear in their seventh semifinal since they were reintroduced in 2009. The Warriors have won their two previous semifinals played at Scotstoun and lost the other four, which were all played away from home. Glasgow’s only win in their last four matches was at home to Connacht in Round 20. Warriors were the only side in the regular season with a 100 percent home winning record in the Championship this campaign. Defending champions, Scarlets, have appeared in two previous Pro14 semifinals, both away from home, losing to Ulster in 2013 and beating Leinster last season on their way to the title. Scarlets only defeat in their last four Pro14 matches was 14-52 on their most recent visit to Scotland, against Edinburgh at Murrayfield in Round 20. Scarlets have won their last three matches against Glasgow including their only encounter this season at Parc y Scarlets in Round 19. Scarlets overall record at Scotstoun in all competitions is an even won three, lost three. Glasgow Warriors will win this one by seven points.
Glasgow: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 George Horne, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Ruaridh Jackson.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Steff Hughes.
Date: Friday, May 18
Venue: Scotstoun, Glasgow
Kick-off: 19:45 (18:45 GMT)
Expected weather: Showers are expected in the afternoon. The temperature will be around 7°C around kick-off time. There will be a slight breeze as well.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Ollie Hodges (Ireland)