Glasgow to face second-string team as Leinster focus on Connacht clash

GLASGOW'S bid for their first real success and proof that they have become a Magners League heavyweight now comes down to two games, the first of which could be a bigger mental test than physical after Leinster named a second-string team for Friday night's trip to Firhill.

• Dan Parks is hoping to keep Glasgow in the hunt for Magners League glory against Leinster at Firhill on Friday. Picture: SNS

The Irishmen need only one point to ensure their place in the Magners League play-offs while a victory of any sort away to Connacht tonight will clinch a home semi-final spot. They have named their full-strength side for tonight to seal that and afford their first-choice players ten days to prepare for their Heineken Cup semi-final at Toulouse at the start of next month.

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So only two players – centre Eoin O'Malley and Stephen Keogh, the No 8 – will start in both games this week, while the backs from Leinster's bench tonight, Paul O'Donohoe, Ian Madigan and Simon Keogh, will come into the reserve side for the Glasgow clash. That means no appearance for Nathan Hines, the Scotland lock, back at Firhill.

After beating Ulster, Glasgow sit fourth in the league on 42 points, one behind the Ospreys and Munster, who meet each other on Saturday night at Thomond Park. Should Glasgow and Edinburgh win, the latter at home to Ulster on Sunday, both Scottish sides will have control of their own destiny in the last weekend.

The key to making the last four for Alastair Kellock, the Glasgow skipper, lies in the improved consistency which has lifted his side into the top four. "The results speak for themselves," the skipper said of a record this season of six wins in eight home games after previous seasons of following big wins with demoralising defeats. "It's a difficult thing to get tagged with, being unable to back-up games (wins], but we've matured as a squad, got smarter, realised that every Monday you pitch up it doesn't matter anymore what you've done at the weekend.

"It (consistency] has also come from keeping the bulk of the squad together, getting to know the guys. I remember saying a while back that consistency may be a difficult thing to find but the teams that are continually pushing to the ends of the tournaments, or at the top of the league, are the consistent ones.

"When we (Scotland internationalists] were away at the Six Nations, the results didn't necessarily all go our way, but the players made massive strides forward and when we came back the levels of training had gone up, so we had to make sure we matched and bettered them to get back into the team.

"So the feeling has been good in the last few weeks, but at the same time we've not done anything yet. We've not qualified. We're still needing two good performances in the league, starting with Friday night." Glasgow have delayed naming their starting line-up to allow some bruised players more time to recover, but stand-off Ruaridh Jackson is definitely out of the last two league games with damaged ligaments suffered in a short cameo against Ulster, so teenager Duncan Weir could be involved, and Colin Gregor and Jon Welsh are also injured.

Sean Lineen, the Glasgow coach, echoed Kellock's sentiments, praising the work ethic of the players left in the Six Nations shade as having played a significant role in putting Glasgow into this position. But he warned against under-estimating this weakened Leinster side.

"Leinster are Leinster and we played (and lost to] ten of this team in Dublin, so we'll concentrate on our attitude and what we do. This game is about us and we have to have our attitude spot on.

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"We need to make sure our patience is there, the composure is there and we give them nothing to work off."

Glasgow squad (v Leinster at Firhill on Friday, 8pm): Forwards: J Barclay, T Barker, J Beattie, K Brown, C Forrester, R Gray, D Hall, E Kalman, A Kellock, M Low, F Thomson, K Tkachuk, D Turner. Backs: C Cusiter, R Dewey, M Evans, M McMillan, DTH van der Merwe, G Morrison, H O'Hare, D Parks, C Shaw, B Stortoni, D Weir.

Leinster (team to play Glasgow): I Madigan; Simon Keogh, E O'Malley, F McFadden, M Keating; P O'Donohoe, C Keane; R McCormack, B Jackman (capt), M Ross, T Hogan, C Ruddock, R Ruddock, P Ryan, Stephen Keogh. Subs: J Harris-Wright, J McGrath, M Flanagan, D Ryan, D Moore, K Tonetti/B Macken, A Conway.

Referee: J Jones (Wales).