Glasgow v Scarlets: Sky Live PRO14 semi-final preview

Rhys Patchell scoring one of his two tries for Scarlets against Glasgow in April

Rhys Patchell scoring one of his two tries for Scarlets against Glasgow in April

Scotstoun hosts the first PRO14 semi-final on Friday night as Glasgow look to end Scarlets’ defence of the title, live on Sky Sports Action.

This time last year, Wayne Pivac’s Scarlets went to the RDS and became the first team in the competition to win a semi-final on the road.

But the defending champions have it all to do as the hosts have accumulated a formidable win record at home this season, returning 49 from a possible 50 PRO14 match points at Scotstoun.

For Glasgow, the stars appeared to be aligned for a scripted ending with their mercurial fly-half Finn Russell turning out for what will be his final home game before he joins up with Racing 92.

Glasgow are favourites to advance to the final in Lansdowne Road on May 26h, but more than once this season Welsh sides have heaped spectacular defeat on their Scottish counterparts.

Form

Glasgow: WLWLL

Glasgow go into this semi-final off the back of two PRO14 losses – one to Ulster and the other to Edinburgh in the 1872 decider at Murrayfield.

Warriors qualified for the Final Series on April 13 but, worryingly, they haven’t looked quite as fluid as the form that marked them out in earlier rounds of the competition.

They are packed with quality in every line, however, and it’s tough to argue with the adage that consistent form, allied to their home form, will suddenly abandon them in their Scotstoun fortress.

Scarlets: WLLWW

Pivac’s side were clinical in their dismantling of the Cheetahs during their 43-8 quarter-final victory without ever really being tested by their opponents.

Steff Evans touching down during their PRO14 quarter-final
Steff Evans touching down during their PRO14 quarter-final

Prior to that fixture, a Judgement Day victory over Dragons helped them to bounce back from their elimination from the Champions Cup at the hands of Leinster.

The disappointment they felt after not being able to impose themselves during that contest will fuel Scarlets this week as well as the opportunity to secure back-to-back titles.

Last meeting

Scarlets 26-8 Glasgow, PRO14, April 7, 2018

Scarlets' Leigh Halfpenny, in action against Glasgow Warriors at Parc y Scarlets, is out of this fixture
Scarlets’ Leigh Halfpenny, in action against Glasgow Warriors at Parc y Scarlets, is out of this fixture

Scarlets’ last encounter with the Warriors saw them prevail by three tries to one in the April fixture.

The Welsh region’s victory was built on a dominant scrum where man-of-the-match Rob Evans was hugely impressive in the front row. Rhys Patchell orchestrated the game from fly-half, and was in fine form as he scored two of their three tries.

Gareth Davies was the other man to cross after intercepting a pass from his opposite number Ali Price and the home side pressed on from a 8-0 half-time advantage to secure the result.

Key Players

Glasgow Finn Russell

Finn Russell is looking to new horizons with Racing 92
Finn Russell is looking to new horizons with Racing 92

The talismanic fly-half will bid an emotional farewell to the Scotstoun faithful on Friday night and Glasgow will need an on-form Russell to deliver a winning bow.

Both brilliant and at times frustrating, Russell has delivered enough moments to run a long highlights reel for Scotland and Glasgow. But in a tight-semi final, his game management, as much as his ability to conjure a game-winning moment, will be essential.

Scarlets Gareth Davies

Gareth Davies of Scarlets finishes in the corner after breaking from an intercept against Glasgow in April
Gareth Davies of Scarlets finishes in the corner after breaking from an intercept against Glasgow in April

The Wales and Scarlets’ No 9 has proved a game winner for both club and country against Scotland this season. That will give his confidence a boost as Davies goes about upsetting Glasgow’s winning home rhythm, from the tempo setting scrum-half position.

Pre-match thoughts

Dave Rennie – Glasgow

Dave Rennie has built a formidable home record in the PRO14
Dave Rennie has built a formidable home record in the PRO14

“We’ve prepared well and it’s great to be able to bring back Jonny (Gray), Sam (Johnson) Pete (Horne)and Tommy (Seymour) who were late withdrawals ahead of our last game.”

“Scarlets are a quality side, they’re reigning Champions for a reason and we’re looking forward to the challenge on what is will be a special night for our players and supporters.”

Wayne Pivac – Scarlets

Scarlets' head coach Wayne Pivac is without star full-back Leigh Halfpenny
Scarlets’ head coach Wayne Pivac is without star full-back Leigh Halfpenny

“We’re really looking forward to it. We have a lot of respect for Glasgow, they have a good coaching group, some greats players and they’ve got a very strong home record. It makes for a good match-up. Both teams like to play, use the width of the field, and with that type of play it could be a great game.”

Team news

For Glasgow, George Horne will partner Finn Russell at scrum-half with Sam Johnson and Nick Grigg starting in midfield, while Tommy Seymour returns to the starting XV and will play alongside DTH van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg in the back three.

Stuart Hogg is a central figure in Glasgow's dynamic backline
Stuart Hogg is a central figure in Glasgow’s dynamic backline

For Scarlets, head coach Pivac has selected a strong side peppered with international talent both in the pack and across the backline.

With Leigh Halfpenny unavailable due to a hamstring injury, Scarlets have been forced to make one change to the backline with Kiwi Johnny McNicholl makes a timely recovery from shoulder injury to take Halfpenny’s place at full-back.

Glasgow: 15 Stuart Hogg; 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe; 10 Finn Russell, 9 George Horne; 1 Jamie Bhatti, 2 Fraser Brown, 3 Zander Fagerson; 4 Tim Swinson, 5 Jonny Gray; 6 Matt Fagerson, 7 Callum Gibbins, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain)

Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Ruaridh Jackson

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl; 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 3 Samson Lee; 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Steve Cummins; 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay

Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Steff Hughes

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