Leinster have missed out on just one bonus point in their four matches thus far and are second behind compatriots Ulster on a log currently dominated by the top three Irish teams, with Munster third on the same number of log points as Leinster but with an inferior points difference.
The Warriors are fourth, five points behind Ulster and four behind the other two, but it is not just their current status as the next best team to the Irish trio that offers hope of an upset win in Friday night’s game. That comes by way of the fact that Glasgow beat Leinster the last time they visited Scotstoun Stadium, and that win wasn’t exactly a bolt out of the blue either.
Indeed, if you consider how Leinster have dominated what was previously the PRO14 over the past few seasons, you might even consider the synthetic 4G pitch to be a hoodoo ground for the champions. Leinster have lost more than they have won in Glasgow in recent years, with the record from the last 10 games in the Scottish city across all competitions being six wins to the Warriors and four to the Irish team.
Couple that with the Warriors’ good recent run of form, with the Scots going into the game off a three game winning streak, and this one adds up to a game that should be watched with considerable interest by those who are hoping for Leinster to slip up and be shown to be beatable.
What doesn’t weigh in the Warriors’ favour though is their recent record against Irish teams. Their win over Leinster in the Rainbow Cup in June was their only positive result in the last 11 games. They lost to Ulster in the first week of the Vodacom URC and will need to play well in order to ensure they avoid making it two losses in two against teams from the hitherto dominant nation in the competition.
British & Irish Lions centre Robbie Henshaw has been ruled out of the Leinster team due to a foot injury and Ireland’s veteran first choice flyhalf Jonny Sexton, who was crucial to the Lions’ drawn series result against the All Blacks in 2017, is doubtful because of a hip injury. However, a number of big name players are expected to be in the selection mix after having injuries assessed, and they include Harry Byrne, Dave Kearney, Rory O’Loughlin and Jimmy O’Brien.
Leinster aren’t the only team from the top three that face a potential threat this weekend. Irish derbies are often closely fought and sometimes bring shock results so log leaders Ulster will be going to Connacht, often a difficult away venue for Irish teams, with some trepidation. And the Ospreys, who host Munster in the late game on Saturday, have only lost once in four starts, that being to the Cell C Sharks, who like the rest of the South African teams will be on a break this weekend.
The South African teams are only due to play again when they come back for a double round of home games at the end of November but they should be watching developments in their absence with interest.
Right now the DHL Stormers are the top placed South African team, but they are out of the placings for Champions Cup in 10th position. The Cell C Sharks, Vodacom Bulls and Emirates Lions are all near the bottom of the table and can’t afford the teams in the top half to put more space on them than they already have.
One of the struggling teams at the moment is previous champions Scarlets, who have shipped over 100 points in their last two games and are listing badly in 13th place and currently well out of the Champions Cup qualifications. It is still early days but with a trip to South Africa up next for them, they will be under pressure to get back on the winning track when they host Benetton at Parc Y Scarlets in the other game on Friday night.
Both Cardiff and the Dragons will be aiming to secure themselves places in the top eight heading into the international break when they meet in a derby at Arms Park on Saturday, while Zebre are still in search of a first win in the competition and thus will be supremely motivated to make the most of their home ground advantage against Edinburgh.
Weekend Vodacom United Rugby Championship fixtures (SA times)
20h35: Glasgow Warriors v Leinster (Glasgow)
20h35: Scarlets v Benetton (Llanelli)
14h00: Zebre Parma v Edinburgh (Parma)
18h15: Connacht v Ulster (Galway)
18h15: Cardiff v Dragons (Cardiff)
20h35: Ospreys v Munster (Swansea)