CHRIS FUSARO has admitted that he is expecting a stern physical examination when Glasgow Warriors complete their truncated pre-season build-up at the Richmond Athletic Ground, against London Scottish this afternoon, in a friendly that has the extra spice of a derby feel about it.
The 25-year-old flanker will fill his favoured number seven jersey in a side captained by scrum-half Henry Pyrgos, in which head coach Gregor Townsend has made 11 changes.
With Exiles director of Rugby Mike Friday recruiting from the English Premiership as he attempts to build on last term’s fifth-placed Championship finish with a sustained assault on promotion to the English top-flight, Fusaro has no doubt that Warriors will have to fight fire-with-fire.
With only seven days left before Glasgow take to their hallowed Scotstoun turf to open the Guinness Pro12 campaign with a reprise of last season’s final against Leinster, the candid ball-winner is in no doubt about the importance of successfully negotiating a contest he is hoping will be of gruelling intensity.
Yet the Scotland international believes that with last weekend’s hugely entertaining friendly with Harlequins helping to shed some summer ring rust, Glasgow are ready for this intensely tartan-laced affair in the leafy suburbs of Richmond. “The English Championship is a very physical league, so London Scottish will be gunning for us up front,” suggested Fusaro.
The openside continued: “I think they have a strong scrum and line-out and they have had the two hit-outs against Saracens and Esher, so they are on home soil, have that bit much more game time under their belts than us and will be hungry to take our scalp.
“I think when you factor in the Scottish dimension to the game then there will definitely be a physical edge to this one up front.
“But with it being our final warm-up game we very much welcome that. I have no doubt at all that the Exiles will really look to take us on and with the Guinness Pro12 opener against Leinster just a week away we need a really intense 80 minutes in the locker ahead of it.”
When it came to the identity of the opposition ranks, Fusaro had clearly been conducting some early reconnaissance as he anticipated returning to the starting fray.
“I know Jim Thompson well from his spell at Edinburgh and obviously he played in a Heineken Cup semi-final, also scoring a try in that one, when Edinburgh lost to Ulster and has real pedigree.
“It’s a pity that Jim isn’t playing today but they still have plenty of Scottish talent in the side who will be looking to make a point against us.
“They have Lee Millar at outside-centre and Jamie Stevenson at scrum-half and I think the lad David Cherry is also involved and they signed him from Currie earlier this summer,” said the Glasgow seven.
Fusaro continued: “On top of that they have the former Ireland flanker Neil Best and have just signed the big prop Darry Marfo from Harlequins.
“So that shows you just how ambitious Scottish are about pushing for promotion this season to the Aviva Premiership.
“In that respect, if they turn us over on home soil in front of their support, it will give them a huge boost for their league campaign. So they will be very dangerous.”
Having come off the bench against Harlequins last weekend, when he also assumed the captaincy in a clear indication of his future leadership responsibilities this term, Fusaro admits he is determined to use this afternoon’s clash as an opportunity to post a message of intent.
“Gregor (Townsend) is very good and he always makes sure that everyone gets an equal chance in terms of game time in the build-up. So obviously I am delighted to be starting today and hungry to make the most of the opportunity.”
He added: “But I think the Harlequins game gave us a good platform and one that we can take a lot of positives from on into London Scottish today.
“We attacked well and to get three tries against an English Premiership side like Harlequins, who were much further down their build-up road than us, was very pleasing.
“So in terms of combinations maybe defensively we weren’t as tight as we could have been. We did ship a couple of soft tries to lose the game, but you are going to get that in your first outing back and that is what these games are all about.
“But we have massive strength in depth and Tyrone Holmes and I have really pushed ourselves on by competing to take the number seven jersey.
“Today we are on opposite sides of the back-row but we both want the seven and we have competition like that for every position at Glasgow.
“Hopefully that type of quality of depth can help us sustain another big season.”
Glasgow Warriors team to play London Scottish, Richmond Athletic Ground, Saturday 30 August (kick-off 3pm):
15. Peter Murchie
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Mark Bennett
12. Alex Dunbar
11. Lee Jones
10. Duncan Weir
9. Henry Pyrgos (Captain)
1. Gordon Reid
2. Kevin Bryce
3. Rossouw de Klerk
4. Tim Swinson
5. Leone Nakarawa
6. Tyrone Holmes
7. Chris Fusaro
8. Adam Ashe