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It’s Celtic Sudden Death

It’s Celtic Sudden Death

The sudden-death business of the Celtic League 2002/03 tournament arrives this weekend, with Ireland and Wales assured of active interests in the semi-finals early in the new year.

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Three Irish, three Welsh and two Scottish teams contest this weekend’s quarter-finals, with the all-Irish clash between Munster and Connacht and the strictly Welsh domestic affair between Pontypridd and Neath guaranteeing an Irish and Welsh presence on 3/4 January, 2003.

However, Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Rugby both have home advantage on Saturday, with Glasgow going under the national microscope – their clash against Ulster at Hughenden is being televised on BBC Grandstand.

All four matches have attracted live television coverage, with the TG4 cameras at Musgrave Park and BBC Wales at Sardis Road for the Friday night contests and S4C broadcasting Cardiff‘s visit to Edinburgh on Saturday evening.

Glasgow Rugby reached last season’s Celtic League semi-finals, going down to eventual winners Leinster, and coach Kiwi Searancke is adamant that “one thing’s for sure – my players won’t be overawed by the occasion.

“A lot of my players are used to the pressure of such occasions as they play international rugby, so I have no worries on that front.”

Searancke’s preparations for the game have been hampered by Scotland’s autumn internationals but he is happy that those Test calls underline the quality of his squad.

“It’s great to have international players in the side. The more players we have in the national side, the better we can become. It will also give my players the chance to play in high-pressure games, which can only be beneficial for Glasgow Rugby.

“If they are used to playing in big games for Scotland then they should be more composed when it comes to matches like Saturday’s game against Ulster.

“This is a winner-takes-all occasion. We’re in the knockout stages now so there’s a lot more at stake.

“Obviously you change your tactics slightly because if you lose then you’re out … it really is that simple.

“Ulster are a tough side, but they won’t relish coming here. It will be a great occasion for the supporters and I’m sure they’ll turn out in big numbers to support us.

“I think the key will be the team that manages to keep their composure will win the game. And if we can get an early break then our confidence should soar and we can take a grip of the game.

“We’re finally becoming more organised both on and off the field and I think that shows in our rugby. We’ve finally embraced professionalism and a win on Saturday will be a further boost for Scottish rugby.’

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