Scotland scrum-half Ali Price is the latest Glasgow casualty as coach Dave Rennie desperately seeks a winning formula against Edinburgh in the decisive third leg of the 1872 Cup tomorrow evening. Price drops out of the match-day squad altogether, replaced by George Horne who has been on sevens duty at the Commonwealth Games. He is backed up by Henry Pyrgos.
It’s been a sobering season for Price after making his big breakthrough last year. The scrum-half started in Scotland’s disastrous Six Nations opener in Cardiff before being usurped by veteran Greig Laidlaw. Now Price’s poor form sees him out of the Warriors’ 23-man squad, which Rennie dubbed, “the best we can pick today”.
“He [Horne] has been our best performing nine,” explained the coach. “He’s had a great season. His speed around the track, his ability to get to the ball quickly, his ability to get second touches. He’s electric.
“We released him to go to the Commonwealth Games which was a great opportunity for him. He’s been fantastic for us and deserves his opportunity to play in such a big game.
“He’s a rare breed: incredibly quick but he can go for 80 minutes because he’s phenomenally fit. There’s not too many nines in the world who can do that. Some are well-conditioned, but not fast. Or they’re quick but they can’t go long enough.
“He really suits the kind of game we want to play and it means that Edinburgh are going to have to be aware of him which might create space for someone else.”
The Glasgow coach adopted a brave face at yesterday’s press conference but the Kiwi must be a little alarmed at his side’s patchy form coming to the business end of the season. Rennie made the point that Glasgow need to peak for just two games, the Pro14 semi-final and the final, but while his team have beaten Zebre and Connacht in recent weeks they were spanked by the Scarlets and well beaten by Ulster last time out.
“We came up against a pretty desperate Ulster side last week,” said Rennie. “We had our chances but in the end we weren’t clinical enough, weren’t good enough.
“The key is that we have to be at our best at semi-final and final time. That’s all that counts in the end. We have a three-week block leading into that. I’m happy with where we are. We have a good bunch of men and we have depth and quality to pick from. We just need to be sharper and more clinical.”
Price is not alone in missing out on tomorrow’s big game. His half-back partner Finn Russell gets the nod at ten but outside the stand-off Rennie has backed Sam Johnson and Nick Grigg over the more experienced pairing of Alex Dunbar and two-try Calcutta Cup hero Huw Jones, who may be paying the price of back-to-back seasons having joined Glasgow immediately after helping Western Province lift the Currie Cup.
DTH van der Merwe makes his 100th appearance in Glasgow colours in his second stint at the club, Stuart Hogg will be hoping to have a big say in events from full-back and Tommy Seymour has the unenviable task of keeping Edinburgh powerhouse Duhan van der Merwe in his box.
Seymour has struggled in the past when up against size and speed so Edinburgh will doubtless attempt to manufacture a one-on-one for their South African bulldozer in the hope that Duhan, rather than Glasgow’s DTH, van der Merwe can hog the headlines.
In the forwards Alex Allan is preferred at loosehead alongside Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson. Jonny Gray returns to partner Tim Swinson in the second row and Ryan Wilson shakes off his niggle to captain the side from No 8, flanked by Callum Gibbins and Matt Fagerson.