Glasgow Warriors hope plastic can be fantastic v Leinster

Glasgow Warriors usher in a new era at Scotstoun this afternoon with their first match on the new artificial pitch that was laid over the summer.

The new surface should make for attacking rugby but the Warriors coach Gregor Townsend admitted that a fast track would suit Leinster’s ball-in-hand style every bit as much.

“Yes, there are a few teams it will suit,” Townsend conceded.

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“It is going to be a tough ask for the defence coaches. It will be great to watch for the supporters.

“When we played Munster on the Kilmarnock 3G pitch it was a brilliant game. You can produce quicker ball on the surface than in the mud.

“We expect good weather so I think it will be a cracking game.

“It’s just because the ball carriers are running that bit harder.

“At the beginning and end of the season, when the surfaces are better, you get high-scoring games. There was a lot of attack going on in the Pro12 final.

“I imagine it will be like that here even when there is poor weather in winter.”

Leinster will prove a bigger test than Connacht did on the opening weekend of the season, although the Dubliners are without several Irish internationals, including Johnny Sexton, Devin Toner and Jamie Heaslip. However, some of the replacements are not half bad because the young stand-off Joey Carbery grabbed himself two tries against Treviso, one of which was a spectacular effort from 70 yards out.

It should be an open game because the visitors have set out their stall with the selection of three natural opensides in the third row of the scrum, even if No 8 Jordi Murphy is comfortable across the back row.

“They have picked a backline that will look to play,” Townsend predicted. “They have three opensides in the back row, so we can guess what sort of game they will be playing. It will be a high tempo game.”

Glasgow are largely unchanged from last weekend, with the front row the only area to undergo major surgery. Fraser Brown replaces Pat MacArthur at hooker and Sila Puafisi, who started on the bench in Galway, swaps places with tighthead Zander Fagerson.

The Tongan international will have to keep a lid on a resurgent Cian Healy, who will be keen to put his injury woes behind him. Healy featured in the last Lions squad and he won’t have given up on doing the same in the next one.

Elsewhere, Glasgow keep faith with Australian centre Sam Johnson, who retains his midfield berth alongside Alex Dunbar. Henry Pyrgos and Peter Horne continue their half-back partnership, backed up by Ali Price and Rory Clegg on the bench. But whoever takes to the field today is in danger of being overshadowed by the novel nature of the turf under their feet.

“It is new for both teams,” said Townsend. “We have not played on it yet. We have had five training sessions on it this week and I think there will still be some errors from both sides as they get used to the conditions underfoot and the way the ball bounces. But it will make for fast rugby.

“Defences will be under pressure and we just have to cope with it as quickly as we can. We have learned a lot this week. The forwards have scrummed on it. For the backs, the first session wasn’t that great but we got better and we hope we have an advantage over Leinster and other teams who are not used to the surface.

“They [the players] like it. They really like it. It’s going to take some time to bed in because it was only completed a week ago. [But] with more games and training sessions, it will become more like the pitch it will be for the next ten years.”