Glasgow Warriors: Townsend looks for semi-final repeat

Glasgow beat a weakened Ulster side last weekend to finish top of the Pro12 standings
Glasgow beat a weakened Ulster side last weekend to finish top of the Pro12 standings
Pro12 semi-final: Glasgow Warriors v Ulster
Venue: Scotstoun Date: Friday 22 May Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC ALBA, BBC2 NI and the BBC Sport website

Head coach Gregor Townsend aims to draw inspiration from last year's dramatic Pro12 semi-final as Glasgow aim to reach back-to-back finals.

Warriors, who finished top of the table, host Ulster on Friday.

In 2014, they edged Munster 16-15 in a thrilling encounter at Scotstoun before losing to Leinster in Dublin.

"Last year we had to play one of our best ever games to win by a point and this game will be close and competitive again," said Townsend.

"Out of all the games I've played in or coached, that semi-final was up there with best atmospheres I've ever experienced.

"If there's a reference point, that's it, with the effort we put in and the feeling we got after it.

Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend
"Last year, we played probably our best game of the season and only managed to win by one point"

"I can already feel the anticipation and edge from the players now that we are back in that same position.

"Normally when you are in that environment you see the players performing really well."

Townsend says he expects "a classic game" against dangerous opponents at Scotstoun.

"All the semi-finals of the last few years have been separated by fewer than seven points," he told BBC Radio Scotland.

"Last year, we played probably our best game of the season and only managed to win by one point.

"We know that only the best will suffice to get a win tonight."

Glasgow needed a 32-10 bonus-point win at home to Ulster last Saturday in the final round of regular Pro12 fixtures to secure the home play-off.

But the visitors will be much changed for the return, with just four players retaining their starting places and a host of internationals returning.

Townsend has made two personnel changes and one positional switch.

Henry Pyrgos is chosen at scrum-half, with Niko Matawalu moving from the half-backs to the left wing in place of Sean Lamont and Fraser Brown replaces Dougie Hall at hooker.

"It was a challenging selection, with so many players having done so well, especially in recent weeks," explained Townsend.

"We've had 52 players all play their part across the season; we just need that extra push to reach the final.

"We know what's at stake. Our season is over if we don't win."

Al Kellock will lead Glasgow for the last time at Scotstoun
With the final in Belfast, Al Kellock will lead Glasgow for the last time at Scotstoun

A home side has never lost a semi-final since the Pro12 introduced play-offs in 2009-10.

"Having the energy of home crowd always helps but ultimately it's 15 v 15 and Ulster will be just as determined to win this game," added Townsend, whose side have won every home league game so far in this campaign.

"We are strong at home but last year we only won the semi-final by a point so we know we will have to put in more than we have done in any home game this year.

"There are expectations within the group and we have shown consistency all season to get us into this position."

Friday's match will be skipper Al Kellock's Scotstoun farewell before he retires.

Matawalu and DTH van der Merwe, who is fit enough to make the bench, are also moving on in the summer but Townsend is certain his players will not be caught up in the occasion.

"I think there will be a lot of positive emotions going round," he said. "I felt it was a joyous place last week in our last league game with Ulster when the tries started coming and the fans started responding to what the players were doing on the field.

"We're hoping for a similar atmosphere this time.

"We've had celebrations for players like Dougie Hall and Al Kellock, who are retiring at the end of the campaign.

"We're glad we have done that because the focus now is all on the semi-final. We will then deal with what happens after that after the game."

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