Glasgow co-captain Ryan Wilson has been dropped for today’s Heineken Champions Cup clash against Lyon in France, with coach Dave Rennie insisting that others are simply playing better.
Scotland flanker Wilson has not been able to force himself into a back row of Adam Ashe, Matt Fagerson and Callum Gibbins, who will skipper the side this afternoon. There isn’t even a slot on the bench, with Chris Fusaro taking that place.
“Adam Ashe has been outstanding for us over the last few weeks,” explained Rennie yesterday. “We were obviously keen to bring Matt Fagerson back in and both those boys have really good footwork, which gives us very good go-forward and carry. They are explosive and they both defend really well. We just really wanted to reward that, so Ryan misses out this week.
“It’s based on form. Ryan’s played pretty well for Scotland as well, but what we know that within those loose forwards they’ll have to share the load and we wanted a specialist seven on the bench in Chris Fusaro knowing that Rob Harley can move from lock to 6 if we have a couple of injuries there.
“So, unfortunately, Ryan misses out this week but as captain he’s been outstanding, he’s contributed massively to the preparation and I’ve been really impressed by him.”
Rennie agreed that the fact a player of Wilson’s calibre can be left out of the 23 for such a crucial game proves that competition for places has never been higher.
“We’ve created good depth,” said the coach. “We wanted to reward guys not just for playing well over the last month for us but there’s a number of guys who played really well leading into the international window and played well for Scotland.
“We had a lot of discussions around the loose forward mix and we’re happy with what we came up with, and we’d have been more than happy if Ryan had started. This is a side we’ve ended up setting on.”
Centre Nick Grigg is another who has been rewarded for his superb November club form and he will partner Pete Horne in the centre today, with Huw Jones on the bench and Alex Dunbar, who played for Scotland as a replacement against Argentina two weeks ago, turning out in Ayr colours today.
“Nick has been outstanding, on both sides of the ball,” said Rennie. “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him and deserves another crack.”
George Horne gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of Ali Price but Rennie said that too was a tough selection call.
“There’s nothing in this as well,” said the Kiwi. “I thought Ali has been good for us and played pretty well against Cardiff a couple of weeks ago. George was excellent again last week as he has been all year, and we wanted to reward that, but it’s close with those two, and with Nick Frisby as well we’ve got a lot of competition. They’ll share the workload over the coming weeks.”
A more attritional battle than Glasgow tend to relish is expecting in Lyon today as the winless French have one last crack at keeping themselves alive in Pool 3.
“We’ve got a clear idea about how we want to play and what’s going to be important,” said Rennie. “We chose a team accordingly. Obviously, we play on a hard, fast surface here [at Scotstoun] and I don’t think we will get that at Lyon. It will be a bit more tuggy so conditions will be a bit different.
“They are a big side, very skilful but we still want to play quick. We will have to bring a high level of physicality to get the ball we want. We’ve picked a side we think can do that.”