Glasgow coach Dave Rennie says some of his international stars need to prove themselves in the next two weeks if they are to earn semi-final spots and dislodge players who have made significant contributions to securing a home Guinness Pro14 tie in the last four.
Scotland centre Huw Jones returns to the starting line-up for this evening’s re-arranged match against Ulster in Belfast and Rennie admitted he wants to see a good all-round performance in defence and attack from the midfielder.
“Yeah, that’s probably fair,” said the Kiwi. “We’ve got such depth in midfield in our team. Obviously Sam Johnson has been excellent throughout the year and we’ve left him out this week to give Huw and Alex [Dunbar] another crack in midfield.
“I thought Alex was excellent last week [in the 35-22 win over Connacht], Nick Grigg has been going well and then we’ve got Peter Horne. What we know is that Huw is an outstanding finisher so we would hope to see a bit more of that tomorrow as well.”
Finn Russell and Ali Price also return at half-back this evening but Rennie was clear that his semi-final selection is very much up for grabs.
“There’s no guarantees, that’s for sure,” he said. “You’ve got to earn the right to play. We’ve got some guys who’ve put in a massive performance for us throughout the year.
“I think it’s really positive that boys who come back have to fight for the jersey. Who plays in that semi-final game will be decided over the next couple of weeks based on performance.”
Of course, Glasgow can do their Scottish rivals Edinburgh a big favour this evening. If the Warriors deny the Irish province a win it will confirm Richard Cockerill’s men a place in the play-offs ahead of next Saturday’s 1872 Cup decider and final regular season game at BT Murrayfield.
“We’re just focused on doing what we’ve got to do,” said Rennie. We’re happy that we have a couple of tough away games against sides who have a lot to play for. Yeah, it is as it always is – one game at a time and we’ll worry about the Edinburgh game next week.
“It wouldn’t be often they [Edinburgh] cheer for us, which I imagine they will tomorrow.
“Look, it’s something really good. A couple of Scottish sides in the play-off would be good for Scottish rugby. We will meet next week and talk about that then. It has been a positive season. Richard and his team have done a good job and deserves to be in the play-offs. We look forward to meeting him next week.
“We’ll go to win [in Ulster]. It is a by-product for Edinburgh if we can do the job.
“So, yeah, there is nothing underhand going on. We are out here to win [tonight].” For Ulster, it will be a welcome return to focusing on matters on the pitch following a tumultuous couple of weeks surrounding the sackings of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, which has been criticised by the club’s supporters and led to the players issuing a statement expressing their “sadness” over the matter.
“It will have no effect on us,” said Rennie. “Perhaps it’s galvanised the Ulster team, but it’s not something we’ve talked about at all.
“We’re focused on what we’ve got to do. We’re well aware of their threats and we’ll have to defend really well [tonight]. That’s basically all we’re thinking about.”