Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend rings changes in bid for Heineken win

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HEAD coach Gregor Townsend has challenged his revamped Glasgow Warriors side to win their first Heineken Cup match this season.

The former Scotland captain has made nine changes in total to the team that exited the competition last week with a 9-6 defeat by Castres Olympique at Scotstoun Stadium, as they travel to France for the Pool 4 reverse fixture at Stade Pierre-Antoine tomorrow lunchtime.

Warriors have lost their first three Heineken Cup matches but Townsend said: “It would be a great achievement to go out and win in France.

“We’ve selected a team cap-able of playing a high-tempo game, which is what we’ll need to do in order to beat Castres.

“We have some very dangerous runners in the backline, five of whom have played on the wing this season.

“There is pace throughout the side and I’m also looking for a hard edge from the forwards over at Stade Pierre-Antoine.

“We must be much improved in our accuracy from last week’s performance, which was well below the standards we demand of each other. It wasn’t a true reflection of what this group has produced this season.

“Castres grew in confidence the more we failed to hold on to ball and were as strong in the set-piece as we predicted they would be.

“They will be even better at home, but I expect to see a very different performance from us on Sunday.”

John Barclay takes the captain’s armband and will start in the back-row alongside James Eddie at blind-side, with Ryan Wilson at No 8.

Moray Low begins the game at tight-head prop with Gordon Reid on the other side of hooker Pat MacArthur.

Mike Cusack is unavailable for the first time this season due to a shoulder injury.

Tom Ryder, who has just signed a new contract to keep him at the Warriors until at least May 2015, will partner Tim Swinson in the second-row.

The changes continue into the back line with Sean Maitland involved from the start in the No 15 jersey.

Sean Lamont moves in one from his usual spot on the wing and will, on his 50th appearance for the Warriors, occupy the outside centre position, with Peter Horne, impressive in the last two outings, retaining his spot at No 12.

Ruaridh Jackson is recalled to the stand-off position with Niko Matawalu also earning the nod to start at scrum-half.

DTH van der Merwe – also making his 50th appearance in a Warriors shirt – and Tommy Seymour, the club’s two leading try scorers, take up the wing positions.

There is a mix of youth and experience on the bench with Dougie Hall, Ryan Grant and Rob Harley alongside Elite Development players George Hunter and Nick Campbell covering the forwards. Also among the substitutes are Sean Kennedy, the EDP scrum-half, Byron McGuigan and Graeme Morrison, who is set to make a welcome return from injury.

Townsend said: “This is just one in a big series of games we’re involved in over the next few weeks and we need to be at our best in each of these encounters.

“This weekend gives us an opportunity to perform and produce a rare win in France but do that we need to be sharper, more accurate and get back to scoring tries.”

Meanwhile, Ben Foden has warned Ulster that Northampton are ready to defy expectations as they seek to reignite their Pool 4 ambitions.

Saints dropped to third in the pool after being thumped 25-6 at Franklin’s Gardens by last season’s beaten finalists seven days ago and must prevail in the return fixture at Ravenhill if they to have any hope of progressing.

The runaway RaboDirect PRO12 leaders Ulster enter this evening’s showdown on the back of 13 successive wins and are unbeaten at home in Europe since 2008. The odds are heavily stacked against Saints staying in the hunt for qualification, but England full-back Foden insists that they tend to thrive when written off.

“Losing to Ulster stung so much because we were at home and conceded four tries,” said Foden. “The performance let us down, as individuals and as a team.

“There is no finger-pointing, we sat down and took the blame as a team, and we know we have to make things better.

“It is a big ask to go to Ravenhill and beat an undefeated side but for us it is about pride and getting back on track.”

Ulster, who are hoping to reach the quarter-finals for a third successive year, have lost skipper Johann Muller to a fractured arm so Ireland openside Chris Henry leads the team.