Jonny Gray has been stood down from Glasgow Warriors duty for six weeks to recover from his exertions at the World Cup, meaning that the second-row will miss the opening two rounds of Heineken Champions Cup pool matches against Sale Sharks on 16 November and Exeter Chiefs on 23 November.
The decision has been made to manage the 25-year-old’s workload in order to keep him as fresh and fit as possible throughout a hectic 14-month period which started with the build-up to the World Cup, will carry on through the Six Nations and then on to Scotland’s summer tour of South Africa and New Zealand next July.
“It is cumulative,” said Warriors head coach Dave Rennie yesterday. “He didn’t play a lot of footie before the World Cup because of injury but he has played a lot for us. I think looking long term, from a Scottish perspective with the Six Nations and a pretty challenging summer tour, he is being managed a little longer.
“He will have six weeks out [since returning from Japan)and I anticipate him being back in time to face Leinster prior to Europe round three [on 30 November].”
Rennie, pictured, has been able to call up six World Cup players in Adam Hastings, Peter and George Horne, DTH van der Merwe, Zander Fagerson and George Turner for tonight’s Guinness Pro14 clash against the Southern Kings at Scotstoun, and expects Fraser Brown, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, Sam Johnson and Tommy Seymour to come back into the selection mix ahead of next weekend’s trip to Zebre.
Better still for Warriors fans, Rennie revealed that he is hopeful that scrum-half Ali Price, who picked up a foot injury in Scotland’s World Cup opening weekend defeat by Ireland, could come into contention the week after that. “Ali should be on the park training and still has a chance to be available for Sale in round one of Europe,” said the coach.
The arrival of influential reinforcements has not come a minute too soon for the Warriors, who have managed only one win from four outings so far this season.
“We are just disappointed because we have been training well and preparing well but not performing well enough,” said Rennie. “Look at last week, we had twice the number of line-breaks the Dragons had, twice the tackle-breaks but we also had twice the errors. That hurt us.
“We have conceded six tries in the last three games and four of them have been when we were in possession. That tells a bit of a story. We need to be better in that area, but I don’t think we are far off, and the injection of these boys will help.
“We could have brought some of those guys back in last week, but we wanted to make sure they were mentally fresh and ready to go,” he added. “There is a big run of games right through to the end of January. It has been great [getting them back in training], they are full of energy and enthusiasm and bring a lot of experience, it has been really good.
Rennie identified the inside-backs triumvirate he has selected for tonight’s match as likely to be key if the team are to kick-start their season. “Clearly, when you have George Horne, Adam Hastings and Peter Horne out there, there is a lot of communication, which is something that has probably been missing a bit,” he reasoned.
“I caught up with those guys [all the returning World Cup players] and stressed the importance of enthusiasm. A few of our boys are pretty disappointed, as you would imagine, but there are a few young men in among that who have played a lot of footie for us now. It is good from our perspective.
“We are still really positive. We know what we need to do and hope to see evidence of that tomorrow night.”