Coach Dave Rennie freshens up Warriors for Lyon challenge

Dave Rennie has made eight changes to the starting XV that picked up a winning bonus point in Lyon last weekend and he may have done so with one eye on next weekend's '¨1872 Cup.

Glasgow's Stafford McDowall in action. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS/SRU

Moreover, the Kiwi coach insists that his Warriors team have not been weakened by the changes despite the fact that George Horne and Adam Ashe, Glasgow’s standout players last Saturday, don’t merit a place in today’s matchday 23.

“We are conscious of the fact that he has played a fair bit of footie in the last few weeks and is pretty battered,” Rennie said about two-try hero Ashe.

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“We are really rapt with the way he played, that is why he was chosen last week, but we also feel we have made a few changes because it will give us a bit of edge.

“With eight changes that means we have eight guys who are determined to make a bit of a statement and we have brought some guys on to the bench who were not part of the mix last week either.

“We have talked a lot about the depth we have created here. Credit to our boys they have put pressure on us for our selection. We don’t feel it weakens us at all, we have good competition for places
and that is reflected in our selection.”

Fraser Brown’s name is also missing from the 23 because the Scotland hooker underwent an operation on his knee last week and is sidelined for eight to ten weeks, missing the start of the Six Nations and possibly the entire tournament. George Turner takes his starting spot with the capable Grant Stewart backing him up on the bench.

In the absence of Ashe, co-captain Ryan Wilson gets a chance to put his hand up for selection for the 1872 tie, Tim Swinson partners Jonny Gray in the row while Siua Halanukonuka and Oli Kebble are the starting props. The latter, a South African project player, has signed a contract extension of one year, which will enable him to qualify for Scotland on residency grounds.

Ali Price gets a start in place of the younger Horne, George, while brother Peter makes way in the midfield for Stafford McDowall and the 6ft 4in 
centre is one to watch.

He only signed his first full professional contract this week and today’s start alongside Huw Jones marks the 20-year-old’s first Champions Cup experience of any sort after several strong showings in the day job.

“We are very happy with what Stafford has put on the park in the last four or five weeks,” said the gaffer, “he has a very good skill set with regards to distribution and kicking. He has a massive work ethic and does provide a bit of size but it is his composure that has impressed us most. Big game for him but he has good players around him.

“We’re playing him at 12. We think that’s more suited to him but he’ll cover 13 tomorrow. He’s got a very good skill set, so we’ll be comfortable with him in either slot. He’s played a bit of 15 as well. His versatility is massive for us, but primarily we’re looking at him covering 12 and 13 tomorrow.”

Rennie disclosed that Scotland regular Alex Dunbar tweaked something playing club rugby last weekend and was not considered for today’s game.

“We don’t want to churn out the same team week after week,” the coach continued. “There is a lot of footie still to be played. Huw [Jones] has played really well for us when he has had his opportunities this year, Stafford has played really well, so Nick [Grigg] gets a rest, he has played a 
big chunk of minutes over 
the last five or six weeks. We have [Peter] Horne on the bench who can cover 10 and midfield.”

If Glasgow can claim another
bonus-point win today they will probably need the same again against Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun in order to qualify behind Saracens.

Lyon sit fourth in the Top 14 yet the French side are winless after four Champions Cup rounds – winless and pointless, which is how Rennie will be hoping that the opposition view today’s contest.

Lyon cannot qualify 
regardless and their much-changed team are playing for nothing more than pride although that alone can be a compelling incentive, as 
Rennie concedes.

“What we know is they’ve got nothing to lose, they can just come over and play and express themselves,” said the Glasgow boss.

“That makes them potentially dangerous this week, so we’re keen to put out a strong side and make sure we’ve got plenty of edge about us. The boys have prepared really well and the expectation is they deliver tomorrow.”