Glasgow Warriors will seek to make it four opening night wins in a row when they begin their RaboDirect PRO12 campaign with a trip to Ravenhill to face Ulster on Friday (kick-off 7.05pm, live on BBC ALBA).
The Warriors have emerged victorious from each of their round one fixtures in the past three years, beating Leinster at Firhill last September, Munster on the first day of season 2009/10, and Dragons in the initial salvo to the previous campaign.
Sean Lineen’s men have the added incentive of looking to overturn the agonising double reverse they suffered against Ulster in season 2010/11.
Glasgow went down 22-19 at Firhill back in March, Ruan Pienaar landing the winning penalty with the very last kick of the match, while the Ravenhill clash in October 2010 saw the Belfast team sneak home 19-17.
Lineen today challenged his players to produce the intensity and consistency of execution required to register a first Scottish success in Ulster since the Warriors’ 25-13 win in December 2009.
The Glasgow head coach told www.glasgowwarriors.org: “This is a great opportunity for the guys to go to a fantastic rugby arena like Ravenhill and show what it means to pull on the Warriors jersey and perform for our supporters.
“We were hugely disappointed to come away empty-handed from both Ulster games last season, because on each occasion we felt we competed well and put ourselves in a position to win.
“The fact that Ulster just pulled clear both times is a reminder of the quality they have in their squad, and also the fact that you’ve got to be right on top of your game for 80 minutes to bring home the right result.
“That’s what we’re looking for on Friday night: a passionate, calculated performance that gives us the opportunity to win.”
The Warriors starting XV for the game includes three debutants: inside centre Troy Nathan, tight-head prop Mike Cusack and winger Tommy Seymour (pictured right), who will be back on familiar territory having signed from Ulster during the summer.
A further two players, Scottish Rugby Elite Development lock Nick Campbell and back-rower Rory Pitman (currently on loan from Ospreys), are in line to make a first competitive Glasgow appearance from the bench.
Lineen said: “I’ve been very impressed by how our new signings have made themselves at home and also made themselves heard. I’m really looking forward to them delivering in a game context, and they’ll be helped to do that by a core of guys like Rob Dewey, Colin Shaw, Colin Gregor and James Eddie who know what being a Glasgow player is all about.
“Rob Harley will captain the team again. I was very happy with how he took to the role last week: he’s a guy who will lead from the front and take others with him. We’ve had a very positive summer in terms of the players’ desire to go out and do well for the Warriors – it’s now about translating that into a good start to the RaboDirect PRO12 season on the field.
“We’ve got a lot of guys unavailable because of the IRB Rugby World Cup, and while that presents a number of challenges, it also gives other players the chance to really step up and make their mark.”
Seymour told www.glasgowwarriors.org: “It’s fantastic to be making my Glasgow debut in a place that means a lot to me from my Ulster days. There’s been a good vibe around the squad in pre-season and the players are desperate for the competitive action to begin.
“Ravenhill can be a difficult place to go as an opposition player, but we’ve shown the attitude and the ability to win there in the past, and we certainly travel with confidence.”
GLASGOW WARRIORS TEAM TO PLAY ULSTER IN RABODIRECT PRO12 AT RAVENHILL, BELFAST ON FRIDAY 2 SEPTEMBER (KICK-OFF 7.05PM, LIVE ON BBC ALBA)
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Rob Dewey
12 Troy Nathan
11 Colin Shaw
10 Duncan Weir
9 Colin Gregor
1 Jon Welsh
2 Pat MacArthur
3 Mike Cusack
4 Tom Ryder
5 Rob Harley (CAPTAIN)
6 James Eddie
7 Chris Fusaro
8 Ryan Wilson
16 Finlay Gillies
17 Ryan Grant
18 Ed Kalman
19 Nick Campbell
20 Rory Pitman
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Peter Horne
23 Federico Aramburu
Not considered due to injury: Johnnie Beattie (knee), Alex Dunbar (knee), Calum Forrester (knee), Dave McCall (hand), Peter Murchie (shoulder), Gordon Reid (back), Fergus Thomson (shoulder)
The Warriors are offering supporters who commit to a season ticket before next week's first home RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Munster the chance to win one of five pairs of high-end hospitality at the crunch Heineken Cup curtain call against Bath at Firhill on Sunday 13 November.
The match brings one of the most exalted clubs in England to Glasgow to begin the Pool 3 action, one of a host of prestigious fixtures taking place in Scotland’s number one city across the season.
The price of adult (£180) and student/senior citizen (£90) season tickets has been held, while under-18s will pay just £35 to watch the best in RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup rugby.
Fans can visit www.glasgowwarriors.org for more info on season tickets, and to sign up for their chance to claim a very special Heineken Cup win.