Dave Rennie has made six changes to the starting XV which lost to Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield just before Christmas, ahead of today’s 1872 Cup return leg at Scotstoun – but the Glasgow Warriors head coach insisted that only a minor tightening up of approach is required to turnaround that 23-7 scoreline.
Rennie explained that the changes were either enforced due to injury or scheduled as part of a season-wide plan to keep players fresh and competition for places fierce. For example, Ali Price swapping in for George Horne at scrum-half is a like-for-like switch, according to the coach.
“If you look at the nines, there’s not a lot between those guys, so we want to keep a bit of competition going amongst them,” he explained. “That’s why they’re sharing the work-load at the moment, and likewise with a couple of other spots – it’s just a chance for guys to put a bit of heat on us for continuous selection.”
With Huw Jones injured and Nick Grigg being given a short but well-earned break, Alex Dunbar will make his first appearance since 14 October at outside centre.
“Huw’s ribs are no good,” explained Rennie. “Nick, we let go home, so he’s back in New Zealand. He pretty much ran off the field and jumped on a plane. We made a real effort to make sure that everyone got a break at some stage and during the international window he was still training with Scotland the whole time, then we brought him back to play for us because we were a little bit thin in midfield, so he’s away this week and will be back in time for Treviso.
“It’s a pretty competitive spot for us. The guys have played really well. Alex is an experienced player, we think he’ll give us a little bit of go forward and he’ll be desperate to impress.”
The other backline change is on the left wing where Fijian international Niko Matawalu starts ahead of Canadian cap DTH van der Merwe, while Sam Johnson also makes a timely return from the knee injury which derailed his hopes of making a Scotland debut during the autumn and is named among the replacements.
Meanwhile, in the pack, club co-captain Ryan Wilson will add some bite when he returns at blindside flanker in place of Adam Ashe.
D’Arcy Rae comes in at tight-head prop for Siua Halanukonuka, who drops to the bench after a torrid time in the scrums last weekend; and Tim Swinson replaces Rob Harley in the engine-room.
“We’re in a position where we can replace quality with quality,” said Rennie. “Five of the six players we’re bringing in to the starting line-up are internationals. We’ve named a very strong side.”
One position Rennie was not tempted to tinker with was stand-off, with Adam Hastings being given the chance to bounce back after a nightmare experience last week when he threw two interception passes which led directly to Edinburgh tries. Rather than punish the youngster for his mistakes, the coach believes it is a better idea to give him a chance to put things right.
“He [Hastings] got caught flat a couple of times, got put under a little bit of pressure, but both intercepts weren’t like we were under massive heat, it was just the pass selection,” reasoned the coach. “He’ll learn a lot from that. He’s having a good season and we want to show a bit of faith in that, so he gets a chance to redeem himself.”
Taking a wider view of the game, Rennie insisted that his team were not far off the pace against Edinburgh seven days ago but paid the price for a lack of accuracy in attack.
“It’s just detail,” he insisted. “I thought defensively we were really good. We conceded two tries, but they were both [when we were] in possession. We created a lot of opportunities but just weren’t clinical enough. I’ve got no issues with attitude, but we need to be sharper – certainly we weren’t good enough with the ball in hand. What hurt us was the quality of decision making that denied us opportunities to score and ended up creating opportunities for them. So that just needs to be better.”