Townsend shuffles Glasgow pack to face Treviso

Alex Dunbar returns to action for Glasgow with coach Gregor Townsend hailing his versatility. Picture: SNS Group
Alex Dunbar returns to action for Glasgow with coach Gregor Townsend hailing his versatility. Picture: SNS Group
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After the disappointment of that defeat by Northampton Saints last weekend in Europe, Glasgow will expect a return to winning ways this evening at Scotstoun when they host a Treviso team that has yet to register their first victory of the season.

Gregor Townsend has shuffled the pack that struggled against the English club, promoting two new props to the starting line-up. Mike Cusack replaces Tongan international Sila Puafifa in the No 3 shirt while Gordon Reid comes in on the opposite side of the scrum.

He’s an excellent ball carrier, really fights to get through tackles, has excellent acceleration, he wins turnovers

Gregor Townsend

Ryan Grant is listed among the reserves although he seems certain to make his 100th appearance for Glasgow off the bench at some point. Chris Fusaro, who starts at openside, is also marking his century as a Warrior and both men have plenty to prove.

Grant was a member of the front row last weekend that failed to keep a lid on a powerful Saints pack and his yellow card midway through the first 40 didn’t help matters any. Fusaro will have been aggrieved to see his No 7 shirt usurped by Simone Favaro for the big match, although the Italian international did little enough to merit the honour.

“A couple of guys have been rested so no, it’s not a reflection of last week’s performance,” coach Gregor Townsend insisted. “Peter (Horne), Tommy (Seymour) and Ryan (Grant) came in earlier than the other guys. I think they only had a week off after the World Cup and I think Ryan was straight back in.

“We always knew they’d have a break after the Champions Cup.”

Glasgow boast a sizeable squad of players but not big enough given the run on hookers who are as rare as the white rhino, at least in this neck of the north Glasgow woods. The Warriors are missing four of the beasts – two have long term injuries, two are less seriously hurt – and when Pat MacArthur joined the off-games list last weekend a recent Georgian recruit was thrown into the Champions Cup deep end and instructed to swim.

“Shalva (Mamukashvili) will be much better for his game last week,” said his coach. “It was very tough for someone who has not played for us yet… there was no game the week before, so his first game comes ten minutes into Champions Cup with a new group and a new language but I think he got better as the game went on and we have been happy with the way he trained this week.”

There was better news in the back division where the giant Fijian winger Taqele Naiyaravoro gets a start on the right flank, Grayson Hart is preferred to Mike Blair at scrum-half and Stuart Hogg gets straight back on the horse after a couple of uncharacteristic howlers last Saturday.

Alex Dunbar makes a welcome return to fitness after missing the entire Rugby World Cup with a knee injury. When he finally returned to Glasgow’s colours six weeks ago he bruised his sternum in his first game back. If it wasn’t for back luck etc etc.

Dunbar was Scotland’s best back for a long time and while the likes of Mark Bennett and Peter Horne have held the Warriors’ fort admirably well in his absence you fancy he will once again play a central role in whatever success Glasgow achieve going forward once he is back to his brilliant best.

“He’s an excellent ball carrier,” said Townsend. “He really fights to get through tackles, he has excellent acceleration, the timing and the power of his running lines makes him an excellent player not just at our level but at international level. He is very good defensively, he’s really good post tackle, so he wins turnovers, and his ability he has to play 12 or 13 shows what a good rugby player he is.”

But is Dunbar most effective at inside or outside centre?

“I think he’s played really well in both,” comes the reply. “A couple of years ago he would have said 12, then he played the Six Nations and had a break through year with Scotland at 13. He has the pace to play 13 and he has the direct running to play 12 and we are lucky we have a player who can play both positions.”

As for this evening’s opposition, Townsend pointed out that several of Treviso’s losses have been narrow ones and furthermore the lack of success can only feed their hunger, all of which means nothing if Glasgow right last weekend’s wrongs.