Ross Thompson told to ‘notch it up a little bit’ as Glasgow Warriors look to tame Sharks and master the conditions
Danny Wilson has backed Ross Thompson to prove he has the game to cope with everything the Sharks and the weather throw at him when the South Africans visit Scotstoun on Saturday.
Thompson will be at stand-off for Glasgow Warriors as they play their first competitive home game in front of supporters since February 2020.
Duncan Weir, the starting 10 in the United Rugby Championship opener against Ulster, has not fully recovered from the concussion he sustained in the narrow defeat in Belfast.
Thompson replaced Weir 30 minutes into the Ulster match and saw a kick charged down in the second half which led to a try for the home side, but he recovered well to set up a score for Jamie Dobie.
It looks like being a wet day at Scotstoun and Wilson expects Thompson to vary his game accordingly.
“Ross has a good left-footed kicking game and he’s recognised back-field space a lot more since he’s been playing for us,” said the coach. “For example, against the Dragons at the end of last season we said we needed to wear them down a little bit, push them back into places they didn’t want to be, which we did.
“This week he maybe needs to notch it up a little bit. It looks like it’s going to rain quite heavily. If that rain does come in then you can’t go overplaying with a wet ball into a good defence because it’s going to lead to errors and the ball being hacked down the other end.
“So we’ve got to make sure we play in the style we did to score four quality tries last week but balance it with a good kicking game and Ross gets the chance to prove he can do that, something he has proved in the past that he can do.”
Rory Darge is the other notable absentee. The openside was the player of the match at the Kingspan but is suffering from a knee injury (“not a major one,” said Wilson) and is replaced by Tom Gordon.
Wilson has also changed his entire front row, with Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Murray McCallum coming in for Brad Thyer, Johnny Matthews and Simon Berghan. Thyer is on the bench but the other two drop out, the latter with an Achilles problem.
Berghan’s absence leaves Glasgow shot on cover at tighthead. Zander Fagerson has only recently returned to training following his Lions exploits, Enrique Pieretto is away with Argentina and Ewan McQuillin is injured.
McCallum, the Scotland international who was released by Edinburgh last season, is given his first start since signing a short-term deal and there is a place on the bench for Murphy Walker, the Dundee-born academy prop. Wilson has been impressed by the 21-year-old.
“It is a bit of a baptism of fire against a big South African pack but he’s one we are excited about,” said the coach.
Sharks lost 42-17 to Munster in their URC opener in Limerick and are missing a clutch of star names who are on Springboks duty but Wilson is wary of the visitors’ attacking pace.
“They have some real dangermen in wide channels who can score a try from nothing,” he said. “But it’s a home game and it’s one we target to win.”
Glasgow Warriors: Cole Forbes; Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu, Sam Johnson, Rufus McLean; Ross Thompson, George Horne; Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown, Murray McCallum, Richie Gray, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, Thomas Gordon, Jack Dempsey.
Subs: George Turner, Brad Thyer, Murphy Walker, Lewis Bean, Ally Miller, Jamie Dobie, Pete Horne, Stafford McDowall.
Cell C Sharks: Curwin Bosch; Yaw Penxe, Werner Kok, Murray Koster, Thaakir Abrahams; Boeta Chamberlain, Ruan Pienaar; Khwezi Mona, Fez Mbatha, Thomas du Toit, Le Roux Roets, Ruben van Heerden, Dylan Richardson, Gerbrandt Grobler, Phepsi Buthelezi.
Subs: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Lourens Adriaanse, Hyron Andrews, Thembelani Bholi, James Venter, Tian Meyer, Jeremy Ward.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
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