Glasgow Warriors look to bounce back from horror half hour as Scotland squad men omission is discussed

After last weekend’s horror half hour in Exeter, Glasgow Warriors have freshened things up in their bid to qualify for the last 16 of the Heineken Champions Cup.

A home win over La Rochelle in their final group game on Saturday night would all but seal the deal but Danny Wilson’s side will have to wait until Sunday evening for final confirmation.

The way Glasgow disintegrated in the final 30 minutes of the 52-17 defeat at Sandy Park was a cause for concern and Wilson has made four changes, bringing in Rufus McLean, captain Fraser Brown, Oli Kebble and Richie Gray for Cole Forbes, George Turner, Jamie Bhatti and Kiran McDonald.

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It’s a strong looking team and the coach hopes it will be enough to overcome physically imposing opponents who finished runners-up to Toulouse last season in both the Champions Cup and Top 14.

Tom O'Flaherty scored a hat-trick as Exeter Chiefs beat Glasgow Warriors 52-17 at Sandy Park. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Glasgow are eighth in Pool A and need to maintain that position or improve if they are to reach the last 16. If they end up ninth, tenth or 11th in the 12-team group they will drop into the Challenge Cup. A bottom-place finish would see them eliminated from Europe.

“If we can win and qualify then it will have been a hell of an achievement,” said Wilson. “When we saw we were drawn with La Rochelle and Exeter we thought if we could get two home wins and a losing bonus away then we would be in a position to qualify and we’d have been really pleased with that.

“That word ‘balance’ has been the key word all week. The task we’ve had is balancing the fact that we’ve come off the back of some good bonus point wins.

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Winger Rufus McLean returns to the Glasgow Warriors side to face La Rochelle. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

“It’s about not over-reacting to the last 30 minutes, which was really poor for a whole host of reasons, but also not brushing it under the carpet and taking responsibility.”

Glasgow have lost only once at home this season and Wilson hopes the return of winger McLean will add an injection of pace as they seek a fast start against opponents who would prefer an arm wrestle.

“It’s great to have Rufus back,” said the coach. “We’ve got a fast track and the weather is looking relatively good for us to go out and play some running rugby.

“I know now that with his selection for Scotland he’s going to want to get a good game under his belt.”

Fraser Brown will captain Glasgow Warriors against La Rochelle. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

While McLean retained his squad place for the Six Nations, a number of his team-mates missed out, notably Brown, Kebble, Ross Thompson, Jamie Dobie and George Horne.

“But I don’t think it has affected morale,” said Wilson. “Their focus has stayed on this weekend. And if they play well they’re back in that shop window and should there be any bumps or knocks they are ready to go.

“We’ve got 11 boys involved in the squad so it’s less than last time when we were up to 15 or 16. Fraser Brown has just been out for so long and hasn’t had a lot of gametime.

“And there are only two out-and-out 10s in that squad at the moment versus three before. Ross has had some good feedback.

“Oli is slightly disappointed to have missed out. But this will put the bit between his teeth.”

Glasgow Warriors v La Rochelle: Heineken Champions Cup, Scotstoun, Saturday, 8pm. TV: live on BT Sport 2.

Glasgow Warriors: 15. Josh McKay; 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Sione Tuipulotu, 12. Samuel Johnson, 11. Rufus McLean; 10. Ross Thompson, 9. Ali Price; 1. Oli Kebble, 2. Fraser Brown (c), 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Scott Cummings, 5. Richie Gray, 6. Matt Fagerson, 7. Rory Darge, 8. Jack Dempsey.

Subs: 16. George Turner, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Kiran McDonald-Seran, 20. Ryan Wilson, 21. George Horne, 22. Duncan Weir, 23. Ollie Smith.

Stade Rochelais: 15. Brice Dulin; 14. Dillyn Leyds, 13. Raymond Rhule, 12. Jonathan Danty, 11. Pierre Boudehent; 10. Pierre Popelin, 9. Tawera Kerr Barlow; 1. Dany Priso, 2. Pierre Bourgarit, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Romain Sazy, 5. Rémi Picquette, 6. Remi Bourdeau, 7. Paul Boudehent, 8. Grégory Alldritt (c).

Subs: 16. Facundo Bosch, 17. Léo Aouf, 18. Guram Papidze, 19. Thomas Lavault, 20. Mathieu Tanguy, 21. Thomas Berjon, 22. Ihaia West, 23. Eneriko Buliruarua.

Referee: Karl Dickson (England).

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