Leinster may have parked two British and Irish Lions’ props on the bench, but there is no such luxury for Glasgow who have selected the strongest available team to play the PRO14 champions in Dublin this afternoon.
Another win for Glasgow will mean that they remain on course to top Conference A with the advantage of hosting the PRO14 semi-final that comes with that achievement.
Coach Dave Rennie has made just two changes to the team that saw off Ulster last weekend. Jamie Bhatti comes in at tighthead for the injured Oli Kebble and Scott Cummings replaces Rob Harley in the row with the Glasgow veteran shifting to the flank to accommodate the young lock.
Adam Ashe drops to the bench where he will find Scotland centre Huw Jones, making his first contribution since injuring his knee in the Six Nations match against Ireland back in February.
“We started him against Saracens because he’s been playing really good footy,” said Rennie, explaining Cummings’ call up. “He does a good job running our lineout, he’s a really good athlete and he’s making good shifts around his physicality. He made a couple of good tacklers in that game and then knocked himself out.
“Jonny (Gray) came back in and was the best player last week. The only reason Scotty wasn’t in the mix is because he couldn’t train. He had to get through from an HIA (head injury assessment) point of view.
“He’s looking good,” was Rennie’s response when talk turned to Jones. “Since being out of Europe we have been keen to get him in the mix and get him on the field this week with no game next week.”
Leinster have stood down most of their big guns. I counted four starters in their XV, with one eye on next weekend’s Champions Cup semi-final – and Glasgow’s conference rivals Munster did the same for last night’s match against Benetton Rugby.
While no one was happy at the manner of Glasgow’s exit from Europe at the hands of Saracens, that disappointment may just have lightened the load a little at the end of a long season. With one more regular season match after this weekend, against inter-city rivals Edinburgh, Rennie revealed that flanker Ryan Wilson was targeting a come back in that 1872 match. Kebble should be good to go in a week or two as should flanker Callum Gibbins who suffered concussion against Saracens.
While the talk was about who will be available for the next match there was inevitably speculation about who might be available next season, with the spotlight falling on Aaron Cruden. The 50-cap All Black is kicking his heels in Montpellier. He goes back a long way with Rennie; the pair first met up at New Zealand U20 level a decade or more ago.
“He’s a good man. Manawatu. Played for the Chiefs,” Rennie stonewalled when asked about his favourite flyhalf before grudgingly conceding some ground.
“We are not in a position to talk about any contracts until they are signed.
“There are a few announcements to be made so we will let you know when everything is sorted.
“I’ve worked a lot with Aaron in the past. He’s a good man and a hell of a player. I hear there’s a bit of speculation out there.
“I’m not too fussed about bringing big names in. What we’re looking for is quality. Sometimes they are rough diamonds and sometimes we’re trying to bring guys through from a Scottish perspective. We’re looking for the right fit for us, whether they are a big name or not.”