GLASGOW have been boosted by the timely return from ankle surgery of international open-side Chris Fusaro for tonight’s visit of Zebre to Scotstoun.
The 25-year-old suffered an ankle ligament injury against Toulouse in the European Rugby Champions Cup tie at the Stade Ernest Wallon on 7 December and his return to the fray is particularly timely given the knee injury sustained by Warriors’ other senior open-side, Tyrone Holme, which may see the South African-born No 7 out until the closing weeks of the campaign.
While Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend will also welcome back Sean Lamont, Peter Horne, Ryan Grant and Rob Harley, who starts at lock alongside skipper Al Kellock, there was no doubting his particular relief at Fusaro’s return.
Townsend also revealed that the flanker’s fellow Scotland internationals Sean Maitland and Henry Pyrgos will not be far behind him.
“We had Chris, Henry and Sean in mind for potentially being involved in one of these games. But while Henry and Sean are not far away, it is great for us that Chris is available, he has been itching to play for a few weeks and now he has that opportunity and it is ahead of schedule,” said Townsend.
“We know we might not get 80 minutes out of him but Will Bordill has been playing very well too so we have open-side cover.
“But what is particularly pleasing about Chris being back for this game with Zebre is that our next game is against Leinster and this will put him into the mix for that. As for Sean and Henry, they are a week or two away but we are hopeful they might be ready for a return by the end of the month.”
Glasgow will put a 16-game unbeaten home record in the Pro12, stretching back to a defeat at the hands of the Dragons in November 2013, on the line against a side they took eight tries off less than three weeks ago.
Yet the men from Parma have resolved the internecine bickering that ripped Zebre apart ahead of that dark day at the Stadio Lanfranchi and new head coach Victor Jimenez guided a previously hapless side to a fine victory at the notoriously obdurate Dragons last Sunday.
Not surprisingly Townsend is wary of the lift Zebre will also have taken from Italy’s 22-19 defeat of Scotland at BT Murrayfield just six days back.
He said: “Zebre have played a lot better since the last time we played them.
“They had an external problem the night before that game so we got them at a good time and we played well.
“The following week they went to Leinster and were leading 8-3 after 45 minutes which was a good achievement until Leinster scored their fourth try in the 82nd minute and Zebre also scored a cracking try themselves.
“Then on Sunday they beat Dragons, who had also been playing well, so they are a much tougher prospect.
“There is also a bit of confidence in Italian rugby and possibly a few of their players would have been here last week (v Scotland) and will have happy memories of playing in Scotland. We also know they will come out with a lot of emotion after losing to us so heavily at home.
“They will look to play like Italy did against Scotland and we know that can be tough to combat. So it is a big test for us and there will be a bit of revenge in it for them after our result over there.
“But we are sitting second and [league leaders] Munster have to go to Ospreys tomorrow and we are determined to stay in the top two going into the three-week break. That is our target.”
v Zebre at Scotstoun Stadium, today, 7:35pm, live on BBC Alba
15 Peter Murchie
14 Lee Jones
13 Sean Lamont
12 Connor Braid
11 DTH van der Merwe
10 Peter Horne
9 Niko Matawalu
1 Ryan Grant
2 Kevin Bryce
3 Rossouw de Klerk
4 Rob Harley
5 Al Kellock (capt)
6 Adam Ashe
7 Chris Fusaro
8 Josh Strauss
16 Dougie Hall, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 James Eddie, 20 Will Bordill, 21 Ali Price, 22 Richie Vernon, 23 Glenn Bryce
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