Glasgow coach Dave Rennie has handed youngsters George Horne and Adam Hastings first crack at the half-back berths after naming the pair in the team to face Connacht in the Guinness Pro14 opener in Galway this afternoon.
Both toured with Scotland in the summer and Rennie is expecting them to seize the opportunity, with George’s older brother Peter Horne starting at inside centre.
“This week, with [centre] Sam Johnson out, we were keen to get Peter on because he’s a very good communicator and organiser, which will help Adam,” said Rennie.
“Peter had an excellent international season last year and played a lot at 12, but he just wants to play, he doesn’t care whether it’s at ten or 12. He’ll play a fair bit of ten for us as well, but we’re very happy with how Adam’s gone so far. It’ll be another test for him tomorrow.”
The younger Horne had already claimed the starting No 9 jersey by the end of last season and continues, with Ali Price injured and new signing Nick Frisby on the bench. Rennie revealed that the 23-year-old scrum-half, pictured, has been electric in pre-season training after winning his first international caps against United States and Argentina.
“George is a bit of a freak when it comes to his aerobic and anaerobic capacity,” said the coach. “He came in and did another PB with regard to his Broncos [the test yourself against the All Blacks fitness test].
“He did a 4.14, which is world class, so he’s as sharp as ever, as you’d expect from George. He had a good season last year and he’s keen to build on that.
“We thought about starting Frisby, but we’ve got a lot of choice there. George and Adam are a bit of a combination and they got the nod. They’ve gone really well pre-season so they get the first crack.”
For a third straight season Glasgow open their campaign in Galway, and Rennie is expecting the usual tough test at an awkward venue against a side with a new coach, Andy Friend, and some good pre-season wins under their built including a big home victory over Wasps.
“We’ve had a look at the footage from their previous two or three games,” said the Kiwi. “Pre-season has gone well for them, beating a couple of English sides in Wasps and Bristol, and putting big scores up. As they’ve done in the past they’ll use what’s a pretty impressive back line. They’ve stressed opponents so far. We’ll give them some respect because we’re aware of their threats, but we think there are a couple of places where we can target them.
“It’s a challenging place to come to in round one but we’re ready to go. It’s been a long time preparing for this.”
Rennie said that blindside flanker Rob Harley would cover a sparse second row, with the trio of Brian Alainu’uese, Kiran McDonald and Tim Swinson all still injured. Back-rowers Adam Ashe and Chris Fusaro start on the bench.
South Africa-born loosehead Oli Kebble gets an early opportunity to impress as he starts in a front row with George Turner at hooker and Zander Fagerson at tighthead.
“It’s good to start Oli in round one,” said Rennie. “He is a big man, very powerful, a very strong scrummager. We didn’t get an enormous amount out of him last season because of injury, so we’re excited. There are a few big men in our squad who we probably didn’t get a lot of game time from last year, guys like Brian Alainu’uese, and Oli is one of those as well. He’s got himself in good nick so were looking for a lot from him.”
Glasgow got off to a flier last season, winning their first ten Pro14 games on the bounce but Rennie is looking for a more complete season in his second shot at a competition he says is “getting stronger every year”.
He added: “It doesn’t matter how well you start, it’s how you finish. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to start well, because you’ve got to do so in this competition, but we got ourselves in a good spot last year and didn’t finish off.
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a full squad to choose from, that we’ve got competition for places and that we’re really fresh and enthusiastic in the latter part of the year.”