A couple of seasons back, when the Warriors topped the league and landed the title, they did so, at least in part, thanks to a string of victories during the Test match windows. With that in mind, this evening’s match against the Scarlets in West Wales takes on added significance.
Scarlets field the same side which beat Cardiff last weekend, including two former Warriors in John Barclay and the free-scoring DTH van der Merwe.
Meanwhile, Glasgow have rung the changes, despite the release of four Scotland players by Vern Cotter. It means bad news on the international front for Mark Bennett, Tim Swinson, Rob Harley and Peter Horne, although the latter could prove the exception.
Horne has played most of his club rugby at centre but Scotland are short of stand-offs to back up Finn Russell and listed the little Warrior as a ten in the national squad.
He is short of game time after recovering from a broken hand and an assured performance from the versatile midfielder could see him safely into next weekend’s Scotland squad to play Australia. So, his coach Gregor Townsend was quizzed, was Horne a ten or a 12?
“He’s both,” came the obvious response. “He started two games at ten that we won at the beginning of the season against Connacht and Leinster. He’s played ten for us this season and he’s playing ten tomorrow.
“It’s great to have a player that can play both. Finn can play both as well. He started with us at 12 and we know he can move there during games. It’s a real asset to have Peter in our squad.”
Horne is partnered by Ali Price at half-back, while Peter Murchie gets a rare start at full-back. Sam Johnson plays inside Bennett in the midfield.
Two forwards make their first start for the club. Canadian loosehead Djustice Sears-Duru, after an agonising eight-month wait, and the giant Kiwi lock Brian Alainu’uese, who only joined the club about ten days ago. Melrose prop James Bhatti starts on the bench. Simone Favaro is unwanted by Italy so the flanker takes his place in the Glasgow back row with Harley and the youngster Lewis Wynne packing down at eight in a much changed side.
“It’s challenging,” said Townsend when asked about operating without so many players.
“We had an excellent training session on Monday. There were only seven backs there! The players worked very hard, we had a number of club players and academy players who joined us. So you are waiting to see who will come back and you are crossing your fingers that they will all come back healthy from various camps. Then it is about the understanding and not doing the volume.
“So Thursday we had a couple of jog throughs and then some meetings and today was similar so it’s not your usual training week but we have to make the best of what we have and so far the players have responded.”
“They [Scarlets] played last week when they were missing a few players so we can look at what they did last week and they played very well. DTH will be playing, coming back from Canadian camp, but the Welsh guys won’t be playing because they have Australia.
“They obviously didn’t have the greatest of starts but, after that, they have looked pretty good. They did well in Europe to beat Sale and to beat Cardiff away with a bonus point last week, missing some key backs, shows what a good team they are. They have been a very good team for the last couple of years. We know they have good backs but they have a tough forward pack too so they will be very tough.
“The important thing for us is that we have seen them play really well with that team. Guys like Hadleigh Parkes and DTH play well for a team when they are missing their home internationals.”
There could be an awkward reunion this evening. Referee David Wilkinson awarded Langilangi Haupeakui two yellow cards (and an automatic red) in the space of 15-odd minutes last weekend only to see both cards wiped off by a midweek disciplinary panel. Wilkinson is assistant referee this evening in Llanelli, so might the Irishman have been guilty of pre-judging the USA Eagle, who comes complete with tattoos, dreadlocks and no little belligerence?
“You’d have to ask the referee,” Townsend replied. “We thought they were good tackles at the time. We were disappointed that a double tackle with Ryan Wilson ended up a penalty when it should have been play on. And to lose a player for ten minutes and then to lose a player again and for him to have his debut marred by two yellows was disappointing. I thought he had three good tackles and an excellent run in his 15 minutes on the field.
“The great thing is that the two yellows should not have been penalties. We have had a really good record this year in terms of penalties conceded and we have to do that, especially when playing away from home.
“I did ask him [Wilkinson] about it a couple of times after the game so we will have an interesting conversation before this game.”