Tighthead Adam Nicol and lock Andrew Davidson will make their first starts for Glasgow Warriors against Zebre tonight as coach Dave Rennie looks to see how the two 21-year-olds fare in the heat of Guinness Pro14 action.
Nicol, the Aberdeen-born prop who spent a chunk of his youth in Bermuda before his family returned to Dunfermline, gets his chance to impress in what has become a problem position due to Zander Fagerson and Siua Halanukanuka being out injured.
Rennie said that the club were close to bringing in a tighthead on loan in time for the start of their Heineken Champions Cup campaign against English giants Saracens next weekend.
The Glasgow coach also revealed that Scotland wing Tommy Seymour will not be involved tonight due to a family bereavement.
Nicol, meanwhile, has the confidence of his coach as he prepared for his maiden start in the Glasgow No 3 jersey.
“We’re really happy with what Adam has brought on the training pitch,” said Rennie. “He made a little cameo last week [against Dragons] and this is a chance to put him under a bit more heat to find out a bit more about him.
“It’s well documented that we’ve got a couple of tightheads missing. We are going to bring in some reinforcements because we are only one injury away from being under massive pressure, but we like what we’ve seen from Adam, he’s a pretty good athlete, has a good skill set and he’s learning all the time from a scrummaging point of view.
“It has been great for him to go up against guys like [loosehead] Oli Kebble on a weekly basis.”
Wing Rory Hughes plays his first game of the season, while USA international Tevita Tameilau is in line to make his Warriors debut off the bench and hooker Grant Stewart is involved in a matchday 23 for the first time this season.
Davidson, on loan from Newcastle Falcons, will pack down in the engine room with Jonny Gray, who returns to the captaincy role with co-skippers Ryan Wilson and Callum Gibbins given the week off.
“Andrew has really impressed us,” said Rennie. “He’s a local boy who is plying his trade down in Newcastle. We’ve got a number of injuries in the second row – I think we’ve got four locks out – so Newcastle were good enough to loan him to us.
“It’s good for him too, to be playing at this level as opposed to maybe playing ‘A’ team rugby for Newcastle. But we’ve been impressed with him, he’s big and a really good athlete, he runs good lines, he brings really good physicality on the training pitch and we liked what he saw in his little cameo last week. It will be a really proud moment for him and his family.”
Rennie has stuck with the Test midfield pairing of Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones, who seem to be clicking nicely in time for Europe and the autumn internations. “We’re really happy with how Alex Dunbar and Huw [Jones] played together last week, in combination with [stand-off] Adam [Hastings], so we’re going to churn those guys out again and give them a bit of a chance to make a statement for selection the following week,” said the Kiwi.
Zebre arrive at Scotstoun looking for a third win of the season and Rennie warned that his team will have to be on their game to get the desired victory boost ahead of the European campaign
“The Italian sides are getting better and better, both Benetton Treviso and Zebre,” he said. “We know they are a real handful on attack, play a really optimistic brand of footy, the total opposite to the Dragons last week who were pretty negative in most aspects.
“What we know is that Zebre lead the competition in offloads and line breaks and are prepared to keep the ball in hand and play a hell of a lot. They are going to ask a lot of questions of us defensively, which will be good. We are very mindful of the threat they pose and we are certainly not underestimating them, which is why we have a good team on the paddock.”