Glasgow Warriors' Scotland contingent told to treat Connacht clash as Six Nations audition

The four Scotland squad members who have been released back to Glasgow Warriors for this afternoon’s trip to Galway to take on Connacht will view the game as an opportunity to push their case for a role in the Six Nations, according to Danny Wilson.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 22: Glasgow Warriors' Kyle Steyn drives forward during a European Champions Cup match between Glasgow Warriors and La Rochelle at Scotstoun Stadium, on January 22, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 22: Glasgow Warriors' Kyle Steyn drives forward during a European Champions Cup match between Glasgow Warriors and La Rochelle at Scotstoun Stadium, on January 22, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Winger Rufus McLean, outside-centre Kyle Steyn and inside-centre Sione Tuipulotu will all start today’s match, while prop Jamie Bhatti is on the bench, indicating that they will not be involved in next weekend’s championship opener against England at Murrayfield.

“I think they’ve all come back motivated with the message from the Scotland coaching team being: ‘go back and play well and we’ll be watching you’,” said head coach Wilson.

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“Let’s take Sione moving from outside to inside centre for us, that’s an opportunity for him to really put his hand up from a Scotland point of view and show that he’s got that versatility.

“And Rufus needs game time because he’s not played a lot recently due to Covid issues and a few other bits and pieces, so this is an opportunity for him to get back out there. Treviso [at the end of November] had been the last he had played up until last weekend against La Rochelle. He is a young man, and he needs to be out there playing rugby to find and keep the form we saw from him in the autumn.

“The swapping of environments later in the week is the tricky bit, but they have been with us for a long time now so I’m confident they will cope,” he added.

Scott Cummings, Rory Darge, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Sam Johnson, Ali Price and George Turner are not involved this weekend, which suggests that they will be involved in the Calcutta Cup game in seven days’ time.

Despite eight changes to the starting XV from last weekend’s Champions Cup encounter against La Rochelle, Wilson has still managed to select 12 internationalists.

21-year-old Ollie Smith has been rewarded with his first start of the season at full-back in place of Josh McKay who has an ankle injury, which is a fair reward for the big impact he made off the bench last weekend when scoring two late consolation tries against La Rochelle.

“Ollie is an example of the next one we’re hoping is going to come through,” said Wilson. “He’s spent some time on his conditioning and he’s put on some good size physically from being in the gym.

“He’s probably lacked a little bit of rugby this season so now we have an opportunity to play him.

“He’s the next of that young group who have come through this season after the likes of Rory, Rufus, and Ross Thompson, so hopefully he can follow in their footsteps by taking his opportunity.”

“We’re joint third in the league at the moment and to get an away win is massive for anybody at the moment because it is all very tight,” added Wilson.

“If we can manage that against a team who have played very well at home, and who lose the least number of players to Ireland out of the provinces during these international windows, then that would be a real positive.”

Glasgow Warriors (v Connacht at The Sportsground, Saturday 2.55pm): O Smith; S Cancelliere, K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, R McLean; D Weir, G Horne; O Kebble, F Brown (Co-Captain), E Pieretto, K McDonald, R Gray, R Wilson, T Gordon, J Dempsey. Replacements: J Matthews, J Bhatti, S Berghan, L Bean, A Miller, J Dobie, R Thompson, S McDowall.