Franco Smith shuffles Glasgow Warriors pack for ‘hostile’ Scarlets trip and gives update on missing duo ahead of Harlequins tie

Scotland players come in and drop out as Smith bids to keep everyone fresh

With one eye on next weekend’s big European Champions Cup clash with Harlequins, Franco Smith is juggling his resources for Saturday’s URC match with the Scarlets in Llanelli.

In come Rory Darge, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Kyle Rowe and George Horne but out go Matt Fagerson, Jack Dempsey and Kyle Steyn, all given time off to spend with their families and recharge ahead of Friday’s last-16 tie at Twickenham Stoop.

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Smith, never afraid to tinker with a winning team, has made eight changes in total to the side which beat Cardiff last week. As well as bringing in the aforementioned Scotland quintet, the coach has handed a first league start to young hooker Gregor Hiddleston and selected Ally Miller and Henco Venter alongside Darge in an all-new back row. Johnny Matthews, Jamie Dobie and Lucio Sordoni drop to the bench and Euan Ferrie and Max Williamson are out altogether.

Six of the eight changes are in the pack as Smith looks for a fourth league win in a row for his third-placed team.

“Continuity in the backs is important, but the opportunity to bring in some fresh legs and new eagerness is also going to be important,” said the coach. “We don’t want to just maintain, we need to develop, we need to perform much better if we’re going to stand a chance towards the end of the season. I see this week as an opportunity for us to grow the depth. Obviously there’s an important game next week, so [we want] to make sure that everybody is in the best form and the best physical condition to give us the best chance going forward.”

Glasgow went down to Parc y Scarlets last season and defeated the hosts in the Challenge Cup semi-final in a feisty encounter in front of a passionate home crowd. Scarlets notched an impressive victory over Benetton last weekend and Smith expects it to be noisy again on Saturday. “After their win last week I think there will be new belief in the stadium and amongst the players,” he said. “With the crowd behind them I definitely expect it’s going to be quite hostile.”

While Smith has been able to reintegrate the majority of his Scotland players there remains a couple of big guns who are sidelined by injuries sustained in the Six Nations. Richie Gray damaged his bicep in the opener against Wales and hasn’t played since, and Sione Tuipulotu suffered a knee injury in the win over England. The coach was guarded about bringing the latter back for Harlequins and coy over Gray’s progress.

Rory Darge is back in the Glasgow Warriors team for the match against the Scarlets in Llanelli. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)Rory Darge is back in the Glasgow Warriors team for the match against the Scarlets in Llanelli. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Rory Darge is back in the Glasgow Warriors team for the match against the Scarlets in Llanelli. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

“[Sione’s] recovering well, but we’ll see on Monday,” said Smith. “It’s a short week next week. It’s going to be touch and go. I currently feel that the fact he hasn’t trained with us yet limits his chances a little bit. We’ll have to see how he gets through this weekend. It will be touch and go. We want to also give him the best chance to recover, so let’s see what comes of this game and it will be an easier decision on Monday.”

On Gray, he added: “He’s training very well. He’s getting a lot of training minutes under his belt. He’s giving it everything training-wise, so it will be interesting to see when he is back.”

Scarlets v Glasgow Warriors: URC, Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli, Saturday, 7.35pm. TV: live on Viaplay.Scarlets: Ioan Nicholas; Tom Rogers, Jonathan Davies, Eddie James, Tomi Lewis; Ioan Lloyd, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias (c), Sam Wainwright, Alex Craig, Sam Lousi, Teddy Leatherbarrow, Dan Davis, Vaea Fifita. Replacements: Shaun Evans, Kemsley Mathias, Harri O’Connor, Morgan Jones, Carwyn Tuipulotu, Gareth Davies, Dan Jones, Ryan Conbeer.

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Glasgow Warriors: Josh McKay; Kyle Rowe, Stafford McDowall (c), Tom Jordan, Sebastian Cancelliere; Duncan Weir, George Horne; Nathan McBeth, Gregor Hiddleston, Zander Fagerson, Max Williamson, Scott Cummings, Ally Miller, Rory Darge, Henco Venter. Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Allan Dell, Lucio Sordoni, Sintu Manjezi, Gregor Brown, Thomas Gordon, Jamie Dobie, Duncan Munn.

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR).



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