It is a situation with which the coach is unfamiliar from his native New Zealand, where the Super Rugby competition concludes before the international Rugby Championship begins. But, rather than dwelling on the peculiarities of the European calendar, Rennie confined himself to expressing the hope that some care had gone into its composition.
“I’m sure a lot of thought goes into this time of year,” said the coach, who welcomes back locks Scott Cummings and Tim Swinson and centre Sam Johnson after injury. “There’s no doubt that some teams are heavily understrength, like the Italian sides and the Scottish sides. Scarlets are providing a hell of a lot of Welsh players and Leinster are providing a hell of a lot of Irish. Some teams are heavily affected and some teams aren’t at all.
“We don’t talk about what’s fair and what’s not fair. We’re going to have a really good side on the field. We’ve got good depth and we’ve played a lot of the season without internationals. Because we’ve had a lot of injuries a lot of these young men have played a lot of rugby for us. It is what it is. We’ve got to get out there and do a job at home. It’s got to be a challenge but we’re pretty excited by that and we have a good enough side on the paddock to do the job.”
The Cheetahs, who have listed eight injuries, lost by only three points to a nearly full-strength Warriors side in Bloemfontein earlier in the season. Third in Conference A, they are close to securing a place in the end-of-season play-offs, and are increasingly competitive away from home, having lost by just five points in Cardiff last week.
For their part, Glasgow have a home semi-final all but in the bag, and are a dozen points clear of Munster at the top of the conference. Whatever happens tonight, the good news for them is that their lengthy injury list is starting to clear up, with Brown and Fagerson due back in action soon. However, the bad news from the Warriors’ point of view, is that both players could be drafted back into the Scotland squad as soon as they have proven their match fitness.
Brown, who has been sidelined because of worries about head knocks he has taken, could return at the start of next month against Ulster – a match which takes place a week before Scotland’s Six Nations match in Ireland. “He’s in training, doing everything but contact,” Rennie said of the hooker. “We just want to make sure we get plenty of contact work done, so we’re hoping about a couple of weeks away.
“We’re certainly not going to rush him. He’s been symptom-free for a number of weeks and we’ve had some positive news from the specialist.
“He won’t play next week [away to Munster]. He has a chance to play the following week and it wouldn’t surprise me if he goes well that he gets taken back up to the national side. That would be great for Scotland and great for him.”
Fagerson, who injured a foot in training, could also be back for the Ulster game. In that event, Rennie added, “I suspect he would be likely to be taken back by the national squad, too”.