Scotland stars return for Glasgow title push

GLASGOW welcome back seven Scotland internationalists to face Munster tonight in what could be the most important match they have played at Scotstoun Stadium.

The Warriors have twice qualified for the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs since they were introduced in 2009-10, but in both 2010 and 2012 succumbed at the semi-final stage away from home. Now, having moved from Firhill to Scotstoun, and enjoyed a seven-match winning league run, only halted on Saturday by defeat in Leinster, Glasgow have given themselves the best chance yet of bringing the Celtic title to Scotland.

Victory tonight would virtually secure a play-off place and push the Warriors back into pole position for a home semi-final, as well as kill off the challenge of the former Heineken Cup champions.

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Munster have named a side that features a core of veteran caps in Doug Howlett, Ronan O’Gara, BJ Botha, Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan, but Glasgow have strengthened their team by restoring Scotland internationalists Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Ruaridh Jackson, Ryan Grant, Jon Welsh and Ryan Wilson.

The Warriors have also erected an 800-seater stand to the west end of the ground to increase the capacity to nearly 6,000 and by last night there were only a few hundred tickets left. The addition of the firepower of Hogg and Maitland, in particular, is likely to ensure the stadium is full come the 8.05pm kick-off.

“They have been paying with great confidence,” said head coach Gregor Townsend of the pair. “Sean had an excellent Six Nations and Stuart did as well, though they didn’t get as much ball in the last couple of games, but they know they will have to play well because the competition in our back three is hot right now. Peter Murchie had his best attacking game last week and he’s really unlucky to miss out.”

With Edinburgh helping their Scottish rivals last week by beating former leaders Ulster, Leinster now head the table by a point from both Glasgow and Ulster, with the Ospreys and Scarlets eight points further back. The two Irish provinces meet tomorrow in Dublin, and Leinster travel to Munster for their next match, while Glasgow still have the Scarlets and Ospreys to play.

A Glasgow win tonight could push Townsend’s side back to the top of the pile by tomorrow night, but if Munster lose their play-off hopes will be all but extinguished, which suggests a night of drama at Scotstoun