Two losses on the bounce may not represent a crisis for Glasgow Warriors but, when they face the Dragons in Newport tonight, head coach Gregor Townsend will be keen to avoid finding out if three successive defeats does.
Just five weeks into the season and Glasgow are already in the midst of an injury epidemic. They have Ayr lock Rob McAlpine on the substitutes bench, while Rob Harley fills a slot in the second row alongside skipper Jonny Gray.
Full-back Stuart Hogg and his “niggling injury” are both rested so Peter Murchie gets his first start of the season, as does former All Black hooker Corey Flynn. Hooker Fraser Brown is forced to do a shift in his alternative position of flanker.
“He’s played really well for us,” said Townsend. “This is his third game starting in the back row. He’s moved there during games. Last week he was one of our best performers. He got a defensive award following the game and he worked really hard during it, he ran more than 8,000 metres, which was the most for any forward.
“He can play openside really well and just now with a lot of injuries he’s done a good job. There are a lot of similarities in the modern game between openside and hooker with the way they defend during lineouts and the dynamism that you see in the modern hooker is again very similar to a seven. Fraser fits that role.”
With no sign of of the injured openside duo of Simone Favaro and Chris Fusaro this may not be Brown’s last stint in the seven shirt. At least Josh Strauss returns to bolster the back row and yougster Lewis Wynne starts at six to complete the breakaway trio.
In the backs, Henry Pyrgos and Finn Russell will be asked to manage the game from halfback, Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett continue their centre partnership with Tommy Seymour and Rory Hughes on the wings.
If Glasgow are struggling so, too, are tonight’s opponents. The Dragons have one win from their four games, their sole victory coming at the expence of Zebre in the second round. They are back to full strength and Townsend, pictured right, went to some pains to ensure that his own experimental side doesn’t underestimate the weakest of the Welsh regions. Referring to last week’s defeat to Ulster, he said: “When you lose to a potential rival you’ve got to win points back quickly.
“We know how tough it’s going to be at the Dragons. They’ve got a full squad, they rested a few players last week. They have a physical brand of rugby and have one of the best opensides in the league, Nick Cudd, who was rated the second best flanker in the league in terms of turnovers.
“We know its going to be tough but I have been very pleased at how we trained this week, the attitude from training sessions, from meetings, the desire of players to to put their hands up for selection.”
Townsend also talked about his relief that reinforcements had already arrived at the club or were just about to. USA Eagle Langilangi Haupeakui arrives soon and McAlpine has been training with the squad alongside breakaway Ruaridh Mackenzie whose father Gregor won one Scotland cap in 1984 before emigrating to New Zealand.
Finally, the Glasgow coach was asked about one former colleague from his Scotland days, Duncan Hodge.
“He was really detailed in his preparation,” Townsend said of the new Edinburgh coach. “He loves coaching, he loves the game and coming from a standoff’s point of view so he will see things more attacking-wise, where’s the space, where are the kicking opportunities, where is the weakness in the defence? He’s got that opportunity to really stamp on them the way he wants to play.
“He has a good knowledge of the game and he wants to do it so I am sure that he will do very well.”