SO HOW do Glasgow reach the final of the Rainbow Cup? The most relevant and realistic answer, surely, is what they supposedly say in Ireland to tourists asking for directions: I wouldn’t start from here.

The real-world journey from Scotland to Treviso, where the final will take place on Saturday 19th, is straightforward enough. But to qualify for that trip, the Warriors need a convoluted set of circumstances to fall in their favour, starting tonight when they take on Leinster at Scotstoun.

A simple win could conceivably be enough for Danny Wilson’s side to finish top of the European table and thus go through to the final against the best South African side. On the other hand, even a bonus-point win might not suffice. The one thing they do know for sure is that anything less than a victory means they are out of the running.

Any sort of win will at least temporarily take the Warriors to the top of the 12-team table, where they will then have to wait for a week until the other teams in the running play their final games. The potentially decisive remaining fixture is in eight days’ time, when leaders Benetton travel to Ospreys knowing that any kind of win – and possibly even a draw – will be enough to get them into that final on their own home ground.

Given the quality of the opposition his side face this evening, Wilson will not go for broke right from the start. He has a wildcard on the bench in the shape of Niko Matawalu if he does need to chase a fourth try late in the game, but wisely, the head coach’s initial aim will simply be to record any sort of win, and to continue a good run of form that has seen his side win their last three games.

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“The aim is to beat Leinster,” Wilson said yesterday after naming a starting line-up showing three changes from the one that began last week’s match against the Dragons. “If we beat them we’ll be sitting in pole position and then we’ve got to wait on other results.

“We may well need a bonus point as well. Things have got to go our way, let’s put it that way. But what we’re more focused on is that whilst mixing our squad we’ve had three bonus-point wins on the bounce, we’ve got our final home game of the season here tomorrow night, and we want to go out with a good performance.”

Wilson declined to say earlier in the week whether he would rest Zander Fagerson and Ali Price, Glasgow’s two British & Irish Lions. But the way in which he spoke about how much the pair had already contributed recently was a strong suggestion that they would indeed be told to sit this one out, and that is what has transpired.

Enrique Pieretto starts at tighthead prop in place of Fagerson, with D’Arcy Rae as back-up, while George Horne replaces Price at scrum-half, with Sean Kennedy on the bench instead of Jamie Dobie, who has a slight injury. 

“It’s very important after a long season that we get the balance of rugby right for those guys and for us,” Wilson said of Fagerson and Price. “They both played really well in the two games they’ve played out of four recently, and we stuck to that plan.

"Zander is a little bit banged up from last week, so we don’t want to risk something there that could have any risk to the ability of those guys to get on that plane to South Africa.”

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The other change to the starting 15 is at hooker, where Fraser Brown takes over from the in-form George Turner, who is named among the substitutes and like Matawalu could well make a significant impact late in the game. Unless the Warriors do reach the final, it will be a last appearance in a Glasgow jersey for Adam Hastings, who is again named at full-back, as well as for Rae and Matawalu if they come off the bench.

 

Glasgow Warriors (v Leinster at Scotstoun, tonight 8.15pm): A Hastings; K Steyn, N Grigg,  S Johnson, C Forbes; R Thompson, G Horne; A Seiuli, F Brown, E Pieretto, R Harley, S Cummings, R  Wilson (captain), R Darge, M Fagerson. Substitutes: G Turner, T Lambert, D Rae, K McDonald, T Gordon, S Kennedy, S McDowall, N Matawalu.

Leinster: H Keenan; T O’Brien, G Ringrose, R O’Loughlin, J O’Brien; R Byrne, L McGrath (captain); E Byrne, R Kelleher, M Bent, R Molony, J Ryan, J Murphy, J van der Flier, C Doris. Substitutes: D Sheehan, P Dooley, A Porter, R Baird, S Penny, R Osborne, J Larmour, C Kelleher.

Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).