GLASGOW coach Gregor Townsend has welcomed back long-time injured prop Mike Cusack and made an intriguing switch in the back division which could point to a new career option for Ruaridh Jackson.
With Scotland eagerly seeking competition for the No 3 jersey, the return of Cusack for the Warriors’ RaboDirect PRO12 match at the Dragons tomorrow will be watched closely. The 29-year-old Englishman has spent the past 14 months out with a persistent shoulder injury that required at least two operations, but is now just four months away from qualifying for Scotland under the three-year residency rule.
He has re-signed with Glasgow through to 2016 and with current Scotland tighthead Moray Low leaving the club for Exeter in the summer he could find himself handed a Scotland debut on this summer’s tour.
Jackson, meanwhile, is moving from stand-off to full-back. Townsend has spoken of the move being made to fit this week’s squad requirements, Niko Matawalu having filled the No 15 jersey last week but being preferred at scrum-half to Henry Pyrgos tomorrow.
While holding down the ten jersey for Glasgow, Jackson has fallen out of favour at Test level and it will be intriguing to see whether full-back, where he will have more time to assess attacking options, becomes a realistic role for his future. The move also allows Finn Russell the chance to build on an impressive outing off the bench in a final quarter comeback in Cardiff.
Other stars of that performance, try scorer Lee Jones and centres Mark Bennett and Richie Vernon continue, with Byron McGuigan returning from injury in place of Rory Hughes, who drops to the bench.
In the pack Cusack replaces Ed Kalman, while Jerry Yanuyanutawa takes over from Gordon Reid at loosehead and Dougie Hall starts at hooker, in place of the injured Pat MacArthur. Jonny Gray is back from the start, having been left off the Scotland bench, and partners Fijian Leone Nakarawa, while the back row of Rob Harley, Tyrone Holmes and captain Josh Strauss is unchanged.
Fourth-placed Glasgow know this game against a Dragons side which has brought in former Scotland prop Bruce Douglas on loan from Bristol is one they must win to maintain their push for a top play-off spot – but they will require to start the game as they finished the one in Cardiff if that is to be achieved.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: 15 Rhys Jones, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Will Harries, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 1 Owen Evans, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 3 Duncan Bell, 4 Andrew Coombs (capt), 5 Cory Hill, 6 Jevon Groves, 7 Nic Cudd, 8 Lewis Evans. Subs: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Phil Price,
18 Bruce Douglas, 19 Matthew Screech,
20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Dorian Jones, 23 Ross Wardle.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Mark Bennett, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Niko Matawalu, 1 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 2 Dougie Hall, 3 Mike Cusack, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 Rob Harley, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 8 Josh Strauss (capt). Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 James Eddie, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Folau Niua, 23 Rory Hughes.