Glasgow coach Dave Rennie has expressed faith in young hooker Grant Stewart to bounce back from his 1872 Cup woe after handing him the No 2 jersey again for this afternoon’s match against Benetton in Treviso.
Stewart’s lineout throwing fell apart in that second loss to Edinburgh at Scotstoun a week ago and he was replaced by Kevin Bryce at half-time, but Rennie is confident the 23-year-old has the character to put things right.
“Hookers at all levels, some of the best hookers in the game have days like that,” said the coach. “He is a pretty good thrower and it was communication issues, his throw-in wasn’t being expected and so and so and so. We have a lot of confidence in him still. He has had a good week’s training and we expect him to better next week.”
Stewart has been thrown in at the deep end with Fraser Brown and George Turner both injured and Rennie said he will get this weekend’s game out of the way before deciding whether to seek emergency cover in the hooker position.
“We have until about Tuesday,” he said. “If we had a disaster in that position this weekend we have options to fill that.
“Fraser Brown won’t be back in time for Europe but could be potentially back in time for Ospreys [25 January]. George Turner will be back a fraction after that, he will miss Ospreys but we think he will be back in for our following [Pro14] game against Cardiff [16 February].”
Rennie recalls Sam Johnson, pictured, at centre to partner youngster Stafford McDowall outside a half-back pairing of George Horne and Adam Hastings.
Ruaridh Jackson is in for the injured Stuart Hogg after Rennie made ten changes to the starting line-up. Scott Cummings gets a shot in the second row alongside Tim Swinson as Ryan Wilson continues as skipper.
“We picked this before we played Edinburgh,” said Rennie. “Some guys we want to manage, other positions we want to freshen up. We are happy with the group we have got and expect them to fire away from home.”
The coach is hoping to see a response against the improved Italians, who sit third in Conference B, following the disappointment of those two Edinburgh defeats.
“We always talk about winning more, whether or not you have lost a couple on the bounce,” he said.
“We just need to front up this weekend and play well, hopefully we get a result and take confidence into the following week, but we’ve been training for months and we are clear in what we need to do.
“It is a game of inches, you don’t quite get things right and if you don’t quite get things right you get hurt – and that’s what happened to us the last two weeks when we’ve been up against an Edinburgh side which has played as well as I’ve seen them play during the last year and a half, so you’ve got to give credit to them.”
Rennie admitted that it was now crucial to get the setback out of the system swiftly with a win on the road.
“It is important. There is talk about momentum,” he said. “In the last two weeks we weren’t clinical enough.
“We made more handling errors in those two games than we made in the previous five. Edinburgh are a good side with an international pack so the scrum is a big factor.
“We created opportunities but were not as sharp as we had been previously. Against good sides you have to take your opportunities. We were happy with our brutality around our clean [at the breakdown]. In those two weeks we conceded three tries – two to intercepts and one at a tighthead scrum so on the whole the attitude has been fine but we cannot make that amount of errors. We will be looking to improve this week.
“I know [Benetton coach and fellow New Zealander] Kieran Crowley really well. I think he has done a fantastic job over there
“They’ve recruited really well and are playing a type of game where they can hurt you through their lineout drive and they are the highest offloading side in the competition, so they are prepared to play – and they are genuine play-off contenders having got themselves in a strong position in Conference B.
“So, there will be no underestimation – we are well aware of the challenge ahead.”