The next few weeks will go a long way to deciding the success or otherwise of Glasgow’s season, starting with today’s fixture against the Scarlets in west Wales.
The Pro12 leaders fielded a weakened team at Scotstoun, they were handed a six-try shellacking for their trouble and Glasgow are anticipating a backlash this afternoon.
“I think that any team with nothing to play for is dangerous,” said Fraser Brown, who makes his first appearance since surgery on his big toe. “If you go back to the World Cup you can look at the Samoa game.
“A team that has nothing to gain is dangerous because they can express themselves, they can do stuff, they can niggle you, they can be aggressive, they don’t really play the way you expect them to play. They are dangerous, especially the Scarlets who have so many good players who can hurt you no matter what.”
Brown is just one of nine changes that Gregor Townsend has made to his starting XV, with Alex Allen getting a rare start at loosehead alongside the hooker. The second row remains the same but Josh Strauss moves from blindside to No 8 in place of the rested Adam Ashe, which allows Ron Harley a shift at six.
In the backs Finn Russell and Duncan Weir swap places and Alex Dunbar shuffles from 13 to 12 to accommodate Mark Bennett, who sat out last weekend’s fixture, at outside centre.
Peter Horne and Stuart Hogg also get an afternoon in front of, instead of on the television, with Tommy Seymour standing in for the Scotland 15, which is where he wants to be according to his coach.
“He came on a couple of times last season,” said Townsend when asked about Seymour. “He has always wanted to play there. He started at full-back in the Ospreys game recently.
“We have six games before the Six Nations, Scotland players will have to be rested at some point. We have picked this week for Stuart [Hogg]. He felt a bit of cramp at the end of last week’s game, so he can work on conditioning.
“We have huge games all the way; one Champions Cup then two 1872 Cup games and then three Champions Cup. We have to choose which is the right one based on where he is physically. Also, he has had a busy time having a baby, so we thought this was the right time.”
When the two teams met last week it was the Fijian powerhouse Taqele Naiyaravoro who did the damage with a hat-trick of tries in the space of just 16 minutes but if the weather forecast is anything to go by the big fella won’t see so much of the ball today, with two inches of rain forecast for South Wales ahead of this fixture.
“The other day it was heavy rain all day and then 40mph winds,” Townsend admitted. “The rain is still the same but the winds have dropped to 20mph. It will be one of those games. We’re getting used to them now.
“Our normal game is getting the ball to the wings if it is on. With the weather as it is, he [Naiyaravoro] might have to go looking for it in different areas. We want all our back three to carry the ball as much as possible. He got 15 carries last week, the most of any player, and our goal is to try to get into double figures in every game.
“It is a combination of getting him, Tommy [Seymour] and Sean [Lamont] involved, but it’s about wingers working to get outside nine and inside ten. He will have a big part in the game.”
That isn’t what DTH van der Merwe wants to hear. The former Glasgow player returns to the Scarlets side this weekend, one of nine changes they have made, in an effort to stop “Taqele the Tank”, a task that proved beyond his colleagues last Saturday. Welsh internationals Samson Lee and Jake Ball bolster the forward pack.
“The guys chatted with DTH during the week and there were a lot of wind ups about who was playing,” said Townsend.
“We think the front row is strong. DTH is obviously a quality player. They had a strong team at the weekend. I’m sure that they will be looking at that game and believing they can do much better.
“There were parts of that game when they were very competitive. They had a lot of physicality, but maybe the scoreline just got away from them in the second half.
“They have been the best team in our league this year and they have an excellent home record and they are bringing back some really good players. It will be a much tougher game.”
14 S Evans
11 van der Merwe
9 G Davies
2 Phillips (c)
17 W Jones
18 R Jones
21 A Davies
5 Gray (c)