AN at-a-glance guide to how Glasgow Warriors will shape up this season
Coach: Gregor Townsend.
Captain: Al Kellock… for the ninth successive season.
Key player: Finn Russell, pictured right… if he continues last season’s astonishing progress.
Strength: An admirable tightness as a team sees Glasgow grind out wins when their all-singing all-dancing game is a little off key.
Weakness: An inability to cope when serious muscle is fielded against them as anyone who witnessed the Heineken Cup clash in Toulon will confirm.
Two to watch: Mark Bennett is still only 21 but he seems to have been the next big thing since Noah last tightened his studs. There is no question the midfielder has potential and, if he can sort his occasional defensive lapses, Bennett’s speed and aggression are handy weapons. Meanwhile giant Fijian Leone Nakarawa offers something utterly unique from the second or third row of the scrum.
It’s a big season for: Twin tightheads Euan Murray, foot of page, who has to prove he still has an appetite for the game, and Jon Welsh, who needs to get fully fit and earn a starting place against tough competition.
Missing in action: Henry Pyrgos and Tom Ryder will both want more games and tighthead Mike Cusack (one of Glasgow’s “project players”) managed just one outing league outing last season after a lengthy illness.
Too many cooks: You can never have too many front-row forwards but Townsend must somehow keep six hookers happy and four of them are full international caps.
Don’t mention: The kebab shop incident for which a trial is pending.
Instead focus on: Glasgow’s enviable consistency in this league.
Last season: Losing RaboDirect finalists.
Best guess: Top four but Cusiter will be missed.
EDP watch: Adam Ashe, Finn Russell and Rory Hughes all make the step from EDP to full professional contracts. Look out for the mountain-biking man-mountain that is Zander Fagerson. Eighteen years and 18 stones, he is hard to miss.
New Kids on the Block
1 James Downey: Not really a Townsend type but the big lump of an Irish centre will get the team on to the front foot when the weather turns nasty.
2 Murray McConnell: The little scrummy, below, with the Irn-Bru barnet, has already had time with the Warriors and he returns to their roster in place of the departed and likely to be much-missed Chris Cusiter.
3 Alex Allan: A former Edinburgh loosehead of whom great things are expected.
4 Rossouw de Klerk: A 24-year-old former Cheetah who may have his sights set on the Scotland No.3 shirt in three years time.
5 Euan Murray: The veteran tighthead whose time frame is a lot shorter.
6 Connor Braid: A Canadian utility back, and a useful one at that.