SCOTLAND stand-off Duncan Weir is expecting to make way for club and international rival Finn Russell in the starting line-up for Glasgow’s crunch clash with Ulster on Saturday.
However, he believes he could still have a crucial role to play off the bench as the Warriors chase the bonus-point win that would guarantee them a home Guinness Pro12 semi-final.
Weir turned 24 on Sunday and is relishing his return from a bicep injury he sustained in the home leg of the 1872 Cup clash with Edinburgh on 27 December and which ruled him out of the Six Nations.
Following a couple of appearances as a replacement he was handed a starting role in Swansea last Friday and played the whole 80 minutes of the 21-10 defeat to Ospreys, which saw the Welsh side replace Glasgow at the top of the standings.
Weir expects to make way for Russell, who was rested last week, for the Scotstoun sell-out against the Ulstermen but is hoping he will play a part.
“It is about grasping any opportunity that comes my way now,” he said. “It is going to be a squad effort every game up until we reach the final hopefully. The last 15 to 20 minutes are huge periods during the game if you are coming on. It is about leadership then and controlling the game as best you can.”
With Ospreys, Glasgow and Munster all tied on 70 points and Ulster just a point back, the Warriors know that even a win might not be enough to secure that home semi-final.
“We could be going for a bonus point then, if I get the chance to come on,” speculated Weir. “I have come off the bench and changed the game before and I am quite happy to do that. I bring a bit of energy and tempo off the bench and I am quite happy.”
There will be no hard feelings from Weir if, as expected, Russell is back in the starting XV that is named by coach Gregor Townsend tomorrow.
“Finn has played four months of rugby. I can’t really get too uptight or worry about not starting,” said Weir.
“Yes, I want that No 10 jersey back but it will be hard after four months of no rugby while Finn has been in and playing for Scotland too, looking comfortable in the international scene. It is going to be a longer process for me.
“But there is no point me getting frustrated and chomping at the bit too early as I need to understand where I am compared to the season that Finn has had. I am happy where I am at the minute. I got 80 minutes under my belt [at Ospreys] and physically my fitness levels feel fine and my GPS scores backed that up.
“I want to show my worth in these last three games and as an individual I want to play. There is no point throwing your toys out of the pram like a 15-year-old. It is about being mature and knowing your role within the squad.”
The Ospreys game did not go to plan, but Weir prefers to point to his 30-minute comeback run-out against Cardiff at the beginning of April as proof that he has made a full recovery from his injury.
“That Cardiff game was great for me,” explained Weir. “I made ten tackles in the space of 30 minutes. After that game I did not have to worry about my arm and was getting about fine.”
Weir is under no illusions about how tough a match they face at the weekend against a side who inflicted Glasgow’s heaviest defeat of the season – 29-9 in Belfast.
The 18-times capped stand-off said: “Ulster have been up near the top of the league consistently for a number of years. They bring physicality and have great line speed. We have the players who can close them down but it is going to take a bit of patience. You can’t try to break them down too early We need to execute perfectly to get behind their defence.”
Weir says that Glasgow are looking to build a similar consistency to Saturday’s opponents and are growing into their reputation as a team expected to be up challenging at the top.
“Last year when we were sitting top for a number of weeks it was the first time we had been top for a while and looking back it was maybe daunting for the players having that responsibility,” reflected Weir. “We have grown into it and we now expect to be up there and have everybody else chasing us. As a player group we believe we are good enough to sit top.”
Meanwhile, the shortlist for the Glasgow Warriors’ McCrea Financial Services Player of the Season award has been revealed ahead of the club’s Awards Dinner in Glasgow on Wednesday 20 May.
Jonny Gray, Peter Horne, Niko Matawalu, Tommy Seymour, Josh Strauss and DTH van der Merwe are all in the running for the award, after being nominated by the Warriors coaching team.