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Stars on show as Glasgow Warriors and Leinster battle to be Guinness PRO14 champions

Stars on show as Glasgow Warriors and Leinster battle to be Guinness PRO14 champions

It wasn’t long ago that Scotland retained the Calcutta Cup in breakneck fashion in the final match of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations – and another standout moment for Scottish rugby could top the agenda this weekend.

On Saturday, Glasgow Warriors lock horns with Leinster in the Guinness PRO14 final, looking to win their first title in four years in the comfort of their home city, with footballing arena Celtic Park hosting its first rugby game in 110 years.

But the Warriors are hardly going to have things all their own way as they test their mettle against defending champions Leinster – packed full of Irish Guinness Six Nations stars and fiercely determined to hold on to their crown.

There’ll be bona fide quality all over Celtic Park, with a raft of players that could swing the tide in their respective team’s direction.

Free-flowing Warriors

Glasgow have proven themselves to be one of the slickest attacking outfits around, as demonstrated by their 50-22 humbling of Ulster in the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals, during which they recorded 17 line-breaks, 22 beaten defenders en route to scoring seven tries.

The man pulling the strings at fly-half will be Scotland stand-off Adam Hastings, who featured in four of his country’s five 2019 Guinness Six Nations matches.

He was inspired as he helped unluck the Ulster defence time and again on their way to victory last time out – and he will be looking to do the same in this season’s Guinness PRO14 showpiece.

Any success against Leinster will require a strong base and Warriors undoubtedly have it in their front row.

Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson will start either side of Fraser Brown, with all three having featured for Scotland in this year’s Championship.

Hooker Brown was useful as an impact man off the bench for Gregor Townsend’s man but packs a punch from the off when he takes the starting berth for Dave Rennie’s outfit.

Back-line effervescence

Warriors scrum-half Ali Price was one of the shining lights as he featured in all five matches for Scotland in the 2019 Six Nations.

Expect to see the type of fizz he showed with a try-scoring display from the bench, when he combined with club teammate Peter Horne – on the bench for the final – to break through and touch down.

Wing Tommy Seymour is a veteran for Scotland and provides some veteran know-how to the Glasgow back three.

He featured four times in the Championship this spring and has been in stellar form for his club in the Guinness PRO14 this term with eight tries in 11 starts including two in last weekend’s semi-final.

Ireland aces aplenty

Everywhere you look in the Leinster line-up, you can see the great and good of Irish rugby lining up.

There’s no better place to start than in the second row with James Ryan, who featured in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations Fantasy Rugby team of the Championship.

The 22-year-old has been a colossus for the Irish province, carrying like a back rower despite his position.

Although he will be without fellow Ireland stalwart Devin Toner in the locks, who misses out after suffering an injury against Munster in the semi-finals as his side secured a 24-9 victory.

Both were key figures in the Ireland pack when they won the Grand Slam in 2018.

In the back line, there is no safer pair of hands at fly-half then Johnny Sexton, a three-time Six Nations Championship winner.

His resume shows he knows how to guide a side through a tightly-fought contest from almost a decade of clashes with Ireland and getting them over the line to lift trophies when it matters most.

Powerhouses for the province

Tadhg Furlong is arguably the world’s most complete front-rower and the Ireland tighthead leads a front row full of bustling talent.

He and his propping partner Cian Healy showed deftness to go with their power as they combined to set up hooker Sean Cronin for the opening try against Munster last time out.

But the front three – who all featured in the 2019 Championship – are as solid as they come when it comes to scrum time as well as contributing around the fringes.

Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose provide a centre partnership full of ballast and the potential for line breaks – with plenty of international experience to boot.

Jordan Larmour, who starts on the right wing for the final, provides the x-factor in the back-three alongside Rob Kearney – with 90 Irish caps and four Six Nations Championships to his name – at full-back.