Dave Rennie wanted to talk about the team he had selected to play Leinster tomorrow afternoon in the Champions Cup tie that means nothing to Glasgow but plenty to the hosts. Instead he found himself fielding any number of questions about the man who wasn’t there.
So when will Stuart Hogg return to action?
“I tell you,” replied the Glasgow coach, “all we did last week was talk about injuries. Let’s talk about who’s playing rather than who’s not playing?”
No, let’s talk about Stuart Hogg, the journalists chorused as one.
“The plan was for him to play, but he’s not quite right,” said a resigned Rennie. “So maybe next week.”
The worrying aspect of Hogg’s injury is that the classy full-back has been due back “maybe next week” for some time now and while no one wants the Hawick man hurried or harried back onto the field the spectre of Andy Murray’s hip surgery looms large in the back of everyone’s mind.
Hogg last played against New Zealand in November so does Rennie expect him to return in time for that Cardiff opener, just three weeks hence?
“Eh, yeah, yep,” said Rennie sounding less than convincing. “He had a little bit of an issue with a foot as well. He had a scan. It still looks good. The plan was to bring him off the bench this week and then start him next week but he’s not quite right. We’re pretty confident about next week.”
Elsewhere Rennie has chosen a scratch team to take on one of the European powerhouses although given injuries to key players he had little other choice.
Tommy Seymour should be back next weekend against Exeter, Jonny Gray is resting some niggles and Finn Russell has a shoulder issue he is trying to get right.
On the flip side George Turner returns to the side for the first time since copping that six-week ban for whacking Louis Picamoles in the back and just in time given Fraser Brown’s ongoing problem with his head knocks.
“Yeah, it’s great to have George back,” said his coach. “He’s a hell of an athlete, he’s aggressive and probably one of our most dominant tacklers. That’s going to be important going into a game against a side that’s very good at looking after the ball and want to take us on up front. ”
The versatile Rob Harley shuffles into the second row alongside USA Eagle Greg Peterson and Adam Ashe makes his first start since injuring ankle ligaments against the very same opposition in the Scotstoun leg of this double header back in October. Ashe is playing daddy in the back row of the scrum, the 24-year-old ‘vet’ packing down either side of two fresh-faced flankers in the form of twin Matts… Fagerson (aged 19) and Smith (21).
Ali Price combines with Peter Horne at half-back while Nick Grigg fills the No 12 shirt, one narrower than is normal, to allow Huw Jones to start at outside centre. Ruaridh Jackson, Lee Jones and Nico Matawalu make up the back three so, with another two No 9s picked on the subs’ bench, Rennie isn’t about to run out of scrum-half cover.
“With Niko we’ve got four half-backs (scrum-halfs) in here, haven’t we?” he said, although you can argue that Lee Jones makes five. That’s just where we’re at from an injury point of view. There are a number of other backs who are fit but not registered. We made a couple of subs that we were allowed to. Half-back is one position where we’ve got no injuries.”
Leinster are unbeaten in Europe, almost at full strength and in the hunt for a home quarter-final whereas Glasgow have nothing but pride to play for. Harley’s 173 Glasgow appearances mean he has more ‘caps’ than the rest of the pack combined. How does a coach go about motivating his side for what looks like a horribly uneven contest?
“Leinster are one of the best sides in Europe,” replied Rennie, “you’ve got to get excited by that, for a start, playing over there in Dublin. It’s a good test. That’s the exciting thing about being in a tough pool – there are questions asked of us each time and that will help us in our other comps.
“We’ve still got plenty to play for and there are a number of young fellas who have got an opportunity to make a statement. We’ve had a really good week of preparation and are looking forward to the clash on Sunday.”
Although not as much, you suspect, as the Leinster fans.