Sione Tuipulotu back as Glasgow Warriors look for same again against the Stormers
The returning Scotland international is a straight replacement for Huw Jones whose toe injury is a source of concern for Smith as he awaits more information on the extent of the problem. “It can be good news, or very bad news – we’re still waiting,” said the coach who is also without his captain Kyle Steyn, another casualty from last weekend’s defeat in Connacht where he suffered an ankle injury which requires surgery.
It’s the dynamic Tuipulotu’s first club outing of the season after the Rugby World Cup and he returns along with fellow Scotland internationals Ollie Smith, Matt Fagerson and Jamie Bhatti, the latter on the bench. “I’m very excited to see Sione coming back,” said Smith. “He’s been playing well so what an extremely good replacement for Huw at this stage. It’s also good to see Jamie Bhatti back. He’s still getting into the swing of things so it will be a big challenge for him to step up into our environment. Matt Fag brings a lot of energy and that’s important to have him back in the fold.”
It means that all but three of Glasgow’s 15 World Cup players have been reintegrated into the side, with Jack Dempsey, Ali Price and George Turner the missing trio.
“Jack has got a wrist injury that he came back from the World Cup with so we’re still rehabilitating that,” said Smith. “Ali Price has a bit of a groin injury that he developed over the World Cup period that we are now managing. George Turner was actually very close to being picked but unfortunately got sick with a stomach bug at the start of the week and we decided not to rush him back.”
Glasgow hope to emulate last season’s memorable win over their South African visitors who have been arguably the most impressive team in the United Rugby Championship since its inception. Smith felt the victory over the Stormers in early January was a significant moment in his side’s development and gave them the confidence to push on and finish in the top four. “There was a little bit more belief instilled in the squad and it helped the growth,” said the coach. “The Stormers are a very accomplished side with experience of finals rugby in both years that they’ve been involved. They have a very experienced squad, not just a good team.”
The Stormers have arrived in Europe without South African World Cup winners Damian Willemse, Deon Fourie, Frans Malherbe and Manie Libbok but Smith expect the visitors to cope without them and with whatever the Glasgow weather throws up in the first game of a four-match tour.
“South Africa will have expected to play in the final so they’d have prepared for this outcome,” said Smith. “We will just concentrate on ourselves because we know that they’ll be a tough opponent. There are no easy games in this competition and we will need to step up. They are called the Stormers so they are probably aligned with this weather. I don’t think they liked training here on Wednesday very much with the rain, but nobody would’ve liked training in Scotland.”