Jamie Bhatti and Alex Allan prop up Glasgow squad for Ospreys clash

Glasgow Warriors hooker 'Kevin Bryce. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU
Glasgow Warriors hooker 'Kevin Bryce. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU
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There may be 15 capped internationals, including ten from the Scotland Six Nations squad, in Glasgow Warriors 23 but the visit of Ospreys to Scotstoun tonight marks another of those periods during the season when the club season runs on while the main action is taking place elsewhere.

Those Glasgow stars who are certain starters when Scotland open their Six Nations campaign at home to Italy a week tomorrow have been packed in bubble wrap, but there are opportunities for others to thrust themselves into the reckoning.

With loosehead Oli Kebble
ill with a cold, props Alex Allan, who starts, and Jamie 
Bhatti, who is on the bench, will get game time ahead of one of them backing up Allan Dell at BT Murrayfield next weekend.

Assistant coach Kenny Murray, who is deputising this evening while his boss Dave Rennie is at a family wedding in New Zealand, is well aware that these international windows are vital for assisting Gregor Townsend at Scotland, while also being a vital period for the club to keep the Guinness Pro14 play-off push on track.

“We talked about this at the start of the week. During that autumn Test period we managed to get 16 points,” said Murray. “So that’s a real big achievement for us when we know we are missing so many of the guys.

“We’ve looked at the next seven weeks and set up a mini Six Nations league for ourselves in terms of winning games at getting points so there’s a real focus within this group.

“We need to do well and need to win games. That will basically determine where we end up at the end of the season and the play-off positions.”

Kevin Bryce, who was in the 2015 Scotland World Cup squad as a hooker as a late injury call-up for Stuart McInally before an aborted attempt to convert to tighthead and a switch to Edinburgh, returns in the Warriors No 2 jersey tonight.

“Kevin’s body shape has changed a lot since he came back to us,” said Murray.

“When he initially came back to us he had put on a bit more weight to play at prop, so the conditioning guys have had to work with him, but he’s made real inroads in terms of losing weight and changing his body composition, so he’s in a much better position.

“Just getting that time on the park in terms of his throwing-in and scrummaging, he’s had a lot of training although not much gametime with us. He’s played a bit with Stirling County at hooker as well so he’s in a good place.

“He’s obviously an important player for us now, with both Fraser, George and Grant Stewart all coming back from injury.

“This is an important game for Kevin to show us what he can do.”

The academy duo of hooker
Robbie Smith and flanker Tom Gordon could make their debuts for the club off the bench.

“Robbie is in our academy and the national academy. He’s a young hooker who plays at Ayr, and played a lot of rugby for them in the first half of the season, but hasn’t played much in the second half of the season, mainly because he was cover for us,” said Murray.

“He’s been involved with Scotland under-20s and played well for them. He’s a really robust young hooker – he’s physical and a really good ball-carrier.

“This is his first runout for us so it’ll be a test for him to play at this level but we’ve got a lot of confidence in him.

“Tom Gordon has played most of the season at Currie. He signed for us at the beginning of the season on a partnership contract with Currie.

“Anyone who follows the Scottish Premiership will see that he’s been one of the most consistent players in the competition, and certainly one of Currie’s best players.

“He’s trained well with us and it’s a wee bit unfortunate that he’s not had a chance so far because Matt Smith, Callum Gibbins and Chris Fusaro have been playing well.

“I’m really pleased that he’s got an opportunity to get on the bench and hopefully get a run because we’re really excited to see what he can do at this level.

“We know he can do it at club level so we’re excited to see if he can bring it onto the park against the Ospreys.”

Third-placed Ospreys are now just five points behind Glasgow in Conference A and Murray added: “It’ such an important game we could either go nine or ten ahead of them or could end up maybe a couple of points ahead of them, so it’s a big game for us we know that.”