Finn Russell’s topsy turvy season just took another lurch and not in a good direction. Dave Rennie has benched his star Scotland flyhalf and instead given the number ten shirt to Peter Horne for this evening’s game against Connacht at Scotstoun in response to Russell’s anemic display against the Scarlets last weekend.
He is not the only high profile casualty because his regular international half-back partner Ali Price is keeping him company on the pine - Henry Pyrgos starts - after lightning struck the little scrummy twice. He conceded an interception try to Gareth Davies in the Six Nations and again last weekend in the Pro14.
It’s hard to fit them all in, dammit!Dave Rennie
“It was Finn’s first game back in,” Dave Rennie offered by way of explanation. “We are going into the business end of the season and I want them to understand that regardless of reputation we are just going to play guys that we think will do the job for us.
“To be honest to win it (the Pro14) we need Finn playing at his best. He was a couple of shades off it last week. Horney is a pretty accomplished ten as well and he gets a crack this week. Hopefully Finn comes off the bench and plays well.
“Finn is pretty clear on expectations. He is desperate to leave this club with another title. Ultimately you are judged by your performance and judged by your preparation. If guys don’t perform as expected you have two options. You give them another crack or you apply pressure by showing confidence in others.
“We have lots of competition for places and Finn has had a pretty good run with Scotland starting every game so we are keen to give Horney a start.”
Elsewhere there is a rare place for Alex Allan and Alex Dunbar who has recovered from a hamstring injury to take his place alongside Sam Johnstone in the midfield. Such is the Warriors’ strength in depth in his position that the Scottish international has struggled to force his way back into the starting XV and, as his coach explained, he is not the only one.
“We have really good depth in midfield,” said Rennie. “I think Sam Johnson has probably been our best midfielder throughout the year and you have to find a place for him going into the business part of the season and that leaves four other international midfielders to fill two of those spots and with Peter Horne able to play ten and twelve that leaves just one other (place).
“Alex Dunbar has recovered from injury, he’s been available the last couple of weeks. He’s trained really well and we looked closely at putting him in last week but Nick Grigg’s form has been excellent. So, yeah, Nick’s unlucky that he is out of the mix this week but Alex is good to go and it’s tough for Hugh (Jones).
“He’s had a really good attacking campaign for Scotland, he’s certainly a high quality finisher. He is working really hard on his defensive game and training hard and he might get an opportunity next week but it’s hard to fit them all in, dammit!”
Glasgow were well off the pace last week both with and without the ball, where they failed to threaten the Scarlets’ line while playing a big part in all three of the Welsh region’s hat-trick of tries. Rhys Patchell ran through several Glasgow defenders for both of his scores and Price earned another unwanted “assist” for Davies’ interception.
In response Rennis has also thrown Matt Fagerson into his starting team just after the breakaway was flown back from the Far East with a hamstring injury which took him out of contention for the Commonwealth Games sevens squad but has miraculously recovered in time for him to play tonight’s match.
Scott Cummings earns a place in the second row, replacing the injured Tim Swinson, while hooker Fraser Brown has recovered from his head injury to take his place in the middle of the front row.
A win for Glasgow this evening would guarantee them top billing in Conference A and the home semi-final that comes with it. On last week’s evidence the Warriors will need every advantage they can get.