With a few senior players coming back from injury, and several more feeling the benefit of having been given last weekend off when the rest of the squad were taking on Zebre in Italy, Glasgow Warriors should be in pretty good shape when they face Leicester Tigers in the European Champions Cup on Friday night, says assistant coach Kenny Murray.
Open-side flanker Simone Favaro is “in the equation” to make his first appearance in over a month after recovering from a shoulder problem, while second-row Tim Swinson is “in contention” after a rib injury. Behind the scrum, scrum-half and co-captain Henry Pyrgos plus centre pairing Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett are hopeful of being in the mix after they were listed as injured last weekend.
Despite their extensive list of injured players, head coach Gregor Townsend boldly opted to rest a raft of other star performers including Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell and Jonny Gray at the weekend. The gamble paid off, with the Warriors still managing to pick up a bonus point victory in Parma, and Murray believes that the real benefit of rotating the squad has been evident this week as the players brace themselves for a step up in intensity against one of the behemoth sides of European rugby.
“We have prepared really well, even though we’ve had a short turnaround. I think we have been meticulous in our preparation,” he said.
“One of the big strengths Gregor has is his ability to rotate the squad in a timely manner and the guys who have come in and taken the place of players like Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett have done a really good job, so that means we have a lot of options going into this week.”
Murray added that he would have no concerns about the ability of the youngsters who have been filling in during recent weeks to do a job for the team on Friday night, if that is what is required.
“If you take [19-year-old flanker] Lewis Wynne, for example, he has played eight games in a row with us. He has already been involved [in friendlies] against Harlequins and Gloucester, the Ulster game in the Pro 12 in particular was up there at real European level intensity, and he has been excellent,” he said. “If you are in there and get selected you need to step up to the mark, and guys like Lewis have done that. He’s a real potential future star, as are Matt Fagerson and Calum Hunter-Hill.”
Leicester have had a decent start to their Aviva Premiership campaign and currently sit fourth in the table with four wins from six matches, but the recent departure of New Zealand defence coach Scott Hansen suggests that there is some frustration at the way things are going.
Murray agrees that any sort of turmoil in the opposition camp can only be a good thing for the Warriors as they look to get their European Champions Cup campaign off to a flying start, but he is wary of attaching too much significance to the Hansen situation.
“I think they’ve conceded a few points in recent games so the brutal manner of rugby down there is that if you do that you are under pressure, but they will still be a quality side coming up here whether they’ve got a defence coach with them or not,” he said.
“Having said that, when we do a preview of any team we are due to play we have a real good look at how they are defending, and we’ve found a few opportunities that we think we can exploit – so we’re well prepared for it.”