Glasgow Warriors v Leinster: Five key issues ahead of Pro14 final
|Pro14 final: Glasgow Warriors v Leinster|
|Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow Date: Saturday, 25 May Kick-off: 18:30 BST|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app.|
Against a backdrop of nerves, hype and controversial pot-stirring, Saturday's Pro14 final between Glasgow Warriors and Leinster promises to be a clash of titans.
Ticket sales indicate over 40,000 people will be there to watch the two conference winners battle at Celtic Park.
Warriors are on a nine-match winning run and are desperate for glory in their home city, while Leinster are formidable defending champions.
The Pro14 showpiece should be one to savour, and BBC Scotland looks at five key issues which set the stage.
"I am sure all the Celtic fans will be out supporting Leinster because I believe Glasgow [players] are all Rangers supporters."
If Leo Cullen was casting his fishing rod this week, the Leinster coach baited a few after his side saw off Munster in their semi-final.
His football-related barb sounded like a joke - it probably was - but comments like these rarely go unnoticed in a football-mad city like Glasgow.
In any case, Celtic fans will be watching their team attempt to claim a third straight domestic treble in the Scottish Cup final a few hours before the rugby gets under way.
Have Glasgow found their muscles?
Dave Rennie's Glasgow have always played fast rugby, a team characterised by their willingness to attack from anywhere. But last season, in the Kiwi's debut campaign at the helm, he was often critical of his men for trying to "go around" their opponents before first going through them.
Now, they have found their muscles. Their set-piece, particularly the line-out, looks formidable. In their last nine matches, they have a success rate of just above 90% on their own throw, making 20 steals on opposition ball.
The 17 line-breaks, 22 beaten defenders, seven tries and half-century of points in the semi-final decimation of Ulster was underpinned by a relentless forward effort.
The case for the defence
When Glasgow beat Leinster in Dublin last month, it was the first time they had won in the Irish capital for eight years. All eight of the Warriors pack that day (barring Chris Fusaro, who was injured very early on and replaced by Adam Ashe, who made 33 tackles) made over 20 tackles, with Gray posting an astonishing tournament-best of 43, missing none.
Despite all those hits, Leinster still scored four tries. Glasgow have the league's best defence, but the champions are patient and clinical and they will be better on Saturday than they were then. Defence will again be key for Glasgow.
Can Leinster go again?
This is a Leinster team reared on success. In the last six years, they have won three European trophies and three league titles. Last season, they did the double, claiming the Champions Cup and Pro14 crowns. In their squad are 15 Irish Grand Slam winners, seven British and Irish Lions, two experienced Australia internationals and a brilliant New Zealander on the wing in James Lowe.
Saracens though had Leinster's number in this year's European final a fortnight ago. It was a brutally attritional game, and was swiftly followed by their Pro14 semi-final win over Munster, another bruiser of a contest.
Naturally, matches of such magnitude take an immense toll on minds as well as bodies. Cullen must make sure his players rouse themselves for one final effort.
This will be Stuart Hogg's last hurrah as a Warrior before departing for Exeter, the final game of a nine-year spell where he has grown to become one of the greatest talents in Scottish rugby history.
Hogg has mixed memories of these matches. By his own admission, he had gotten too big for his boots in 2014 and Gregor Townsend left him out of the Warriors squad that lost the final to Leinster. A year later, he was a vital part of the team that savaged Munster in Belfast, winning the first silverware of any Scottish pro-team.
In the time since, Hogg has become a leader in the Warriors team. How he would love to end with another title.