PETER Horne believes that the breakdown dogfight between former Glasgow openside John Barclay and his successor in the Warriors’ No 7 shirt, Chris Fusaro, could prove decisive when the Scotstoun side face the Scarlets in Wales tonight.
With both players snubbed by Scotland head coach Vern Cotter for his autumn Test squad there is most definitely a point to prove this evening at the Parc y Scarlets.
Openside specialist Fusaro seems once again to have fallen victim, in a Scotland context at least, of the “size does matter” argument, with Blair Cowan now the starting No 7 for the international side. Barclay’s baffling exclusion from the international set-up comes after a stand-out start to the campaign for the 28-year-old who has been consistently excellent for the Welsh region and will captain the Scarlets tonight at No 8.
As such, Horne admits it is a contest that will have a major say in Glasgow’s hopes of victory. “I don’t think there is much doubt it will be a bit of a dogfight at the breakdown between Fuzzy [Fusaro] and John Barclay, and who comes out on top could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the game,” suggested Horne.
“John was just immense to play alongside and he has been in fantastic form for the Scarlets, as has Fuzzy for us and I guess both guys may feel a bit hard done by they are not involved with Scotland.
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“So it’s a contest I am really looking forward to but as a team we are going to have to make sure we do everything correctly. This is a real opportunity for boys like Ali Price, who is making his debut at nine for us, and Zander Fagerson, who is making his first start for us and they will want to lay down a marker. But we are under no illusion as to how tough it will be.”
In all, there are five changes from the side that ground out a 17-9 victory over Treviso at Scotstoun on 31 October but, while there may be a youthful look to some sections of the starting XV, head coach Gregor Townsend has still been able to field skipper Al Kellock at lock and retain a bristling back-row of Josh Strauss, Fusaro and Ryan Wilson.
Horne retains his place at stand-off from the Treviso encounter and has admitted his delight that Kellock will add his gnarled nous to the side after his recent stint skippering the Barbarians.
“In the past at this time of the season we would not have had Al available to us so it is a huge plus to have his leadership on hand and I will certainly be making the most of it,” said Horne.
“He is a rock for us and when you go to places like Parc y Scarlets then you want your skipper in the side and leading from the front. But, personally, this is another great opportunity for me at 10 and I am determined to make the most of it.
“We know that Scarlets have been going well and will be one of our main rivals for a place in the play-offs and this is a big game in that regard.”
The second-placed Warriors have won their last four contests against Welsh teams while Townsend’s side are going for a third successive victory in Wales, having already beaten Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons away this season. With Glasgow having also achieved a league double over Scarlets last term for the first time since 2009/10 the portents, unlike the weather forecast, are good for this evening’s encounter.
Townsend underlined his belief that he has fielded a team strong enough to continue his winning run against the Welsh.
He said: “It is a really strong team and we have had a very productive week going into the game compared to a similar stage last season and it was also a boost when I got an email from the Fijian Rugby Association to say that Niko Matawalu would be available, as Henry Pyrgos has not made it through the concussion protocols.
“But this is a great opportunity for Ali Price, alongside Peter Horne, to manage a game at a high level.”
He concluded: “When you look at the back row and at lock we have five players who would all have been starting for us in previous seasons and that is very positive for us at this stage.”
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