MARK Bennett has been rewarded for his man-of-the-match performance for Scotland Under-20s against Italy last weekend, with a start at outside centre in Glasgow’s RaboDirect Pro12 match against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.
Bennett, who arrived in Glasgow from Clermont Auvergne on loan in November, is among 14 of the 15 starters for Glasgow tomorrow night who have played representative rugby for Scotland at age-grade, A, sevens or full international level.
Glasgow are also bolstered by the returns of Duncan Weir, Henry Pyrgos and Pat MacArthur from Scotland duty.
Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Mark has had to wait a little while to make his first appearance but opportunities have been limited so it’s great that he can get a chance to show what he can do. I’ve been impressed by his attitude and he knows it was simply a case of him working hard to improve in every training session and earn his starting place.
“Mark rightly got the plaudits for his Scotland under-20 performance last week and I’m looking forward to him having a similar impact on Friday night.
“We’re in the middle of another good run of form with four Rabo wins in a row but there are only five points covering positions from second to sixth so it’s hugely important we stay focused on what we do well and what we can control. If we do that, then we put ourselves in a very good position going into the last half dozen games.”
Along with the reintroduction of Weir and Pyrgos to the half-back roles, Townsend is also able to recall DTH van der Merwe, who has recovered from a head injury. Byron McGuigan, who scored his first two tries for Warriors in last week’s win over Zebre, moves to the right wing to accommodate the return of the Canadian flyer. Peter Murchie and Alex Dunbar, also tryscorers last weekend, retain their spots in the starting XV.
All three of the front row have trained with Scotland in the past few weeks with Jon Welsh starting at tighthead and Gordon Reid and Pat MacArthur forming a familiar partnership at loosehead and hooker respectively. Tim Swinson and Tom Ryder are in the engine room and, in a mobile and aggressive back row, James Eddie replaces Josh Strauss to start alongside Ryan Wilson and John Barclay.
On the bench, there is the mercurial threat of Fijian Niko Matawalu, last week’s man of the match, with Elite Development Players Fraser Thomson and Scotland under-20 captain Jonny Gray alongside Scott Wight and prop replacements Moray Low and Ofa Fainga’anuku.
Townsend added: “There have been numerous demands made of this squad, particularly around the internationals but I’m proud of the strength of the squad and the ability we have to bounce back from setbacks and score tries.
“We had a great impact from the second half replacements last week and we have a strong bench available to use this week.”
v Newport/Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade. Tomorrow, kick–off 7:05pm (Live on BBC Alba)
15 P Murchie
14 B McGuigan
13 M Bennett
12 A Dunbar
11 DTH van der Merwe
10 D Weir
9 H Pyrgos
1 G Reid
2 P McArthur
3 J Welsh
4 T Swinson
5 T Ryder
6 J Eddie
7 J Barclay
8 R Wilson (capt)
G Price, O Fainga’anuku, M Low, J Gray, J Strauss, N Matawalu, S Wight, F Thomson.