The 24-year-old, who was omnipresent for the Warriors last season en route to their PRO12 final defeat by the Irish province in Dublin three months ago, marks the start of this season’s Guinness PRO12 with his 100th club appearance since making his debut off the bench against the same opposition in a 22-19 win at Firhill four years ago.
It actually doesn’t seem that long ago since I was coming along to Firhill and even sitting in the stands watching, so it’s a little bit of a shock to reach 100
“It would be great to get the first win, but at the same time there’s a whole season to go,” said Harley. “It’s a cliché, but it’ll be one game at a time for us. You can’t really say at this stage who the best teams will be come the end of the year.
“The goal for us will be the same as it has been the previous seasons: get to the play-offs, and if you get to the play-offs, you’re in with a shot of winning the title.”
Like Harley, Ireland scrum-half Isaac Boss will also make his 100th appearance for his current club on Saturday.
He also becomes the first play to reach the milestone with two Irish provinces following his endeavours at Ulster before heading south in 2010.
The Warriors-Leinster symmetry continues for both players with Boss making a try-scoring debut against the Warriors at Firhill four years ago, but having played so often it is no surprise Harley’s memory of his debut season is cloudy.
“I remember a few matches from the first season and being shocked by the speed of it in professional rugby as I’d played U20, but nothing as fast or physical,” he added.
“It actually doesn’t seem that long ago since I was coming along to Firhill and even sitting in the stands watching, so it’s a little bit of a shock to reach 100.
“Touch wood, I’ve been quite lucky with injuries so far and a big part of that is the physio team here, where there’s an emphasis put on rehab that we do and also the stuff we do to prepare for sessions.
“We’re given a lot of exercises for switching these muscles on and making sure you’re loose in other areas, so that’s how I’ve got a ton.”
Qualification criteria for the new European Rugby Champions Cup, the introduction of Sky Sports as a new broadcaster, and new title sponsor Guinness are already set to make this season’s PRO12 as competitive as ever, but the competition organisers have served up the best possible opening weekend by pitting last year’s finalists against each other.
A first PRO12 final appearance ultimately marked a low point in a stellar season for the Scottish club as they went down 36-12 in Brian O’Driscoll’s final match, and Harley believes the Warriors will have that experience fresh in their memories as they look to secure a second-successive home win against the champions at Scotstoun.
“I definitely think we’re going to use that last game as an extra motivating factor for us,” Harley said. “There’s no better start than hosting the champions.
“There’s a few areas of the game where Leinster did well: the pace of the game, the way they challenge the defence—that’s another reason why it’s good to have them first, because we’ve been working really hard on our shape, our contact work, and our defence as well, and it gives us a chance to take the lessons we’ve learnt from the analysis into practice straight away.”
Glasgow Warriors: Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones; Peter Horne, Henry Pyrgos; Alex Allan, Fraser Brown, Euan Murray, Leone Nakawara, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Josh Strauss (captain).
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Gordon Reid, Rossouw de Klerk, Tim Swinson, Adam Ashe; Niko Matawalu, Stuart Hogg, Sean Lamont.
Leinster: Zane Kirchner, Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Darragh Fanning, Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Ben Marshall, Mike McCarthy, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien (captain)
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Tom Denton, Kevin McLaughin; Luke McGrath, Ian Madigan, Mick McGrath
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
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