Glasgow will hope to make it four wins out of four in the Guinness Pro14 after selecting a team that should be far too strong for the second of their South African opponents, the Southern Kings. Against the poorest side in the entire league, Dave Rennie has rung the changes with the starting XV unrecognisable from the one that ran seven tries past the Cheetahs.
Jamie Bhatti and D’Arcy Rae take over the propping duties with Oli Kebble sitting this one out following a knock to the head that is not expected to detain him for long. George Turner starts at hooker, Ryan Wilson returns from a tummy bug to lead the side from the blindside flank, with Adam Ashe and Chris Fusaro completing the breakaway trio. Scott Cummings and Greg Peterson man the boiler house with much of the week’s focus on fellow lock Brian Alainu’uese who made just one league start for Glasgow last season thanks to various injuries.
He is exactly the sort of big, athletic bruiser that the Warriors need to compete with the best but the Kiwi’s name has been linked with the Top 14’s Toulon and, as Rennie rightly pointed out, Alainu’uese needs game time above all else if Glasgow are to even think about extending his stay beyond this season.
With one good win under their belts and the near certainty of another today, Glasgow would be relatively pleased with their African sojourn but for two serious injuries that have undermined the team going forward.
Zander Fagerson needed surgery on an ankle injury following the Cheetahs match and, while Stuart Hogg injured his ankle against Munster the previous weekend, the problem was not properly diagnosed until this week when he flew home from South Africa. He, too, underwent surgery to correct the problem and will be out of action for 10-12 weeks.
He will miss the autumn internationals and the opening two rounds of the Champions Cup, possibly more.
The injury occurred early on in that humdinger against Munster but Hogg was allowed to play on which begged a few questions for coach Rennie.
“We’ve got no issues around the decision-making to stay on there,” argued the Kiwi. “Often when you have an injury the medics will make a decision immediately. If they’re no good, they’re off immediately.
“Sometimes it’s a red light but sometimes it’s orange, we’re going to monitor them for a couple of minutes and see how they go. That’s how it was with Hoggy. He reported down that he was feeling a lot better. We’ve got no issues with that and it had no effect on the recovery time.
“It normally takes about five days to get an accurate assessment around the ankles and for the swelling to go. Day five there was a bit of pain, and then the medics were saying it was probably syndesmosis [ankle ligament injury] and we had to send him home. He went home just after the Cheetahs game.
“The length of time is disappointing but it is was it is. He’s worked really hard to get himself in such good nick and he played really well in the first two games.”
Hogg’s absence offers Ruaridh Jackson the chance to step into the jersey he filled with such distinction at the beginning of last season and his coach referred to him as “very experienced and a big contributor”. Elsewhere in the back line, Nick Frisby teams up with Peter Horne in a new half-back partnership and Huw Jones get his first start of the season, alongside Nick Grigg in the centres.
“He had an operation on his wrist which limited his ability to handle the ball,” said Rennie of Jones, “but he’s done a lot of conditioning and he’s very sharp, he looks really quick, done a lot of handling recently and we’re all really excited to see him.
“He’s desperate to play well, he’s done a lot of work in all parts of his game so we think the combination between him and Nick Grigg will be a really strong one. We’re looking forward to seeing him go.”
DTH van der Merwe and Tommy Seymour both scored a try last weekend and both wingers retain their places in the back three alongside Jackson.