Ali Price brings maturity and rugby nous but Glasgow Warriors face huge challenge against La Rochelle

Ali Price’s reputation as a player of substance will be further enhanced when he leads out Glasgow Warriors for the first time in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup clash against La Rochelle.

Scott Cummings is back in the Glasgow Warriors team after recovering from a shoulder injury. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

In what is his 100th appearance for the club, the scrum-half will look to inspire an upset win in France.

They’ve done it before - Glasgow beat La Rochelle away in 2019 - but it will be a tall order to win again in the Stade Marcel Deflandre, one of French rugby’s great citadels.

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Price takes over the captaincy in the absence of Ryan Wilson, who is “following Covid protocols” say the club, and Fraser Brown, who is recovering from a knee injury.

Ali Price, centre, replaces the absent Ryan Wilson as Glasgow Warriors against La Rochelle. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Head coach Danny Wilson sees Price as a future club captain and had no hesitation in turning to him this week.

“In the few years that I’ve worked with him with Scotland and with Glasgow he’s been hugely impressive as a leader,” said Wilson. “And he’s just matured and become more confident.

“To be captain and win his 100th cap as well, what a day for him. It’s going to be something we’ll all want to get behind.

“His game management with Scotland and Glasgow has been outstanding, that balance of bringing the running threat that he’s got while also recognising backfield space to push you forward and put the opposition under pressure. That’s where he’s grown massively.

“He’s got a good rugby nous and he’s got a great relationship with a lot of the players. They very much respect him and I think he’ll make a very good future captain.”

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Wilson is under no illusion about the scale of the task facing his side but has urged Glasgow not to get drawn into a physical confrontation with their muscular hosts.

“They have two strings to their bow – they are very, very physical, one of the biggest sides I’ve ever played against, they’re huge, and they also play a fair bit of rugby,” said the Warriors coach.

“At the same time, I think there’s areas we can exploit, there’s opportunities we’ll want to create, and I think we’ll play a brand of rugby which will really test them.

“But I think getting into an arm-wrestle is probably not the way to go.”

Wilson and Brown aside, Glasgow are in good shape for their Champions Cup opener. Matt Fagerson comes in for Wilson at blindside flanker, joining Rory Darge and Jack Dempsey in a strong-looking back row.

Scott Cummings is back at lock following a shoulder injury and Sam Johnson returns at centre after being rested for last week’s win over Benetton.

Cole Forbes drops out of a reshuffled backline in which Sione Tuipulotu shifts out one space to outside centre to accommodate Johnson at 12. Kyle Steyn, who scored the winning try in the 2019 victory in La Rochelle, reverts to the wing.

Price will be partnered at half-back by Ross Thompson who is making his Champions Cup debut.

There is a six-two forwards-backs split on the bench with only George Horne and Duncan Weir covering the latter.

Wilson’s absence highlights the return of Covid and La Rochelle have also been affected this week and were unable to train on Wednesday.

La Rochelle v Glasgow Warriors, Heineken Champions Cup, Stade Marcel Deflandre, Sunday, 3.15pm GMT. TV: live on BT Sport 3

La Rochelle: 15. Brice Dulin; 14. Jules Favre, 13. Jérémy Sinzelle, 12. Levani Botia, 11. Arthur Retiere; 10. Ihaia West, 9. Tawera Kerr Barlow; 1. Reda Wardi, 2. Pierre Bourgarit, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Romain Sazy, 5. Will Skelton, 6. Paul Boudehent, 7. Victor Vito, 8. Grégory Alldritt (c).

Subs: 16. Guillaume Lagahe, 17. Dany Priso, 18. Ramiro Herrera, 19. Thomas Lavault, 20. Remi Bourdeau, 21. Pierre Popelin, 22. Eneriko Buliruarua, 23. Jonathan Danty.

Glasgow Warriors: 15. Josh McKay; 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Sione Tuipulotu, 12. Samuel Johnson, 11. Rufus McLean; 10. Ross Thompson, 9. Ali Price (c); 1. Oli Kebble, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Scott Cummings, 5. Richie Gray, 6. Matt Fagerson, 7. Rory Darge, 8. Jack Dempsey.

Subs: 16. Johnny Matthews, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Enrique Pieretto, 19. Lewis Bean, 20. Robert Harley, 21. Ally Miller, 22. George Horne, 23. Duncan Weir.

Referee: Ian Tempest (England).

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