After a busy summer in which he played two Tests for Scotland and made a fleeting appearance in the famous red shirt of the Lions, Scotland stand-off Finn Russell returns to the Glasgow starting line-up for this afternoon’s game against the Ospreys.
The international No 10 is a key performer for his club and coach Dave Rennie had only good things to say about his free-wheeling stand-off.
“I’ve watched him play a fair bit of footy over the past 12 months,” said the Kiwi, “and there’s a clear difference when he’s running things at ten here, be that the threat or the ability to create space for others, which is a massive strength of his and is as good as I’ve seen from a ten.
“He’s really developing his kicking game to shape proceedings and he’s as brave as hell when it comes to defence.
“He’s working hard on being a real professional and making sure he’s got clarity around the game because he’s the man that the other guys look to. I’ve been really impressed from what I’ve seen.”
Oddly enough, Russell is joined in Glasgow’s ranks by one of the Hurricanes players he faced in New Zealand when playing for the Lions in Wellington. Callum Gibbins, pictured, makes his bow for Warriors in the No 7 shirt and Rennie expects his fellow New Zealander to become a fan favourite at Scotstoun.
“Callum’s a hell of a player. He’s got an incredible workrate and I reckon the fans are going to love him,” added Rennie. “He’s really physical and superbly conditioned, and he’s a great tackler and post-tackler.
“He’s a good leader who captained Manawatu for a number of seasons. What I thought was going to be important was bringing in good men and he certainly ticks that box. He’s also a guy who can’t play for Scotland and that’s important for us from a leadership point of view.”
Peter Horne shuffles one wider to accommodate Russell, replacing the injured Sam Johnson, while Alex Dunbar continues in the No 13 shirt.
Leonardo Sarto makes way on the left wing for Rory Hughes, who may have his hands full dealing with the latest Welsh “wunderkid” in the form of flyer Keelan Giles. Still only 19 years old, Giles is touted as the quickest thing on two legs and Glasgow won’t want to gift him the ball and some space to work with.
They pose a threat but the Ospreys are reeling from last week’s announcement that their own Lions stand-off Dan Biggar will play for Northampton next season while their Welsh scrum-half Rhys Webb has been linked with a move to the Top 14 in France.
Neither man plays today with the young Sam Davies and Tom Hubberfield both making their 100th appearance for the region, although neither come close to the record-breaking prop Paul James who will play his 224th game today.
His coach Steve Tandy stated last week that there was “not much bigger challenges in the Pro14 than going to Scotstoun to play Glasgow” and that is something that Rennie was keen to underline ahead of his first home match in charge.
“They are a strong side, top four last year, always been competitive. I think they will be better than they were last week, as we will,” said Rennie.
“What we know they will be is very physical and that excites us because it is an area of the game that we really want to develop so I think she’ll be pretty brutal.
“I think winning at home is crucial. You want to create an environment that is difficult to come to and maybe when we had a grass pitch out here it made people feel it was pretty muddy and not the best place to play in the middle of winter.
“I know our guys are excited to play here. We have a great fanbase and we are really determined to get off to a good start.”