Six Scotland caps drop out and a ginger tribute as Glasgow Warriors eye top four finish

Having squandered a 28-15 lead against Cardiff last weekend Danny Wilson has called on his Glasgow Warriors side to be more ruthless and the coach showed a mean streak of his own by axing half a dozen Scotland internationals for Friday’s game against Zebre at Scotstoun.

Sam Johnson, Ali Price, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson and Richie Gray are all absent from the matchday squad, while Jamie Bhatti drops to the bench. Also missing is Josh McKay, the full-back, who has been ruled out through injury.

Wilson said player welfare influenced his selection but there was no disguising his unhappiness with the way his side allowed Cardiff to come back to win 32-28 at the Arms Park on Saturday.

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The coach is particularly concerned about Glasgow’s away form, understandable when three of their final four fixtures of the regular season are on the road. Warriors have won only two of six United Rugby Championship away games, compared to seven victories and one defeat at Scotstoun.

They return to home comforts on Friday with a fixture against the side propping up the URC table and anything other than a victory would be unthinkable given Glasgow’s tough run-in which comprises games against the Stormers and Bulls in South Africa and the second leg of the 1872 Cup versus Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

“Our home form has been outstanding,” said Wilson. “We have won some really big games at home and only lost one in the league. On the road we are too hit and miss. We have gone two games in Wales, Scarlets and Blues, when we have been in relative control after 50 minutes, and had mini collapses that caused us to lose these games.”

“The next step for us in our journey is to be more ruthless and to be better on the road. We are not winning enough on the road to be a real heavyweight in this division.”

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Murphy Walker, left, will start for Glasgow against Zebre but Jamie Bhatti drops to the bench. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Glasgow are fourth in the URC standings and need to stay in the top four if they are to secure a home quarter-final in the play-offs.

“We have worked hard to be pretty much in the top four for the bulk of the season so to stay there we have to be ruthless and get four or five points to be able to roll in to the business end of the league,” added Wilson.

The coach has made three changes to his backline, with Domingo Miotti given a rare outing at full-back in the absence of McKay and Ollie Smith, who is also injured. Stafford McDowall comes in for Johnson at inside centre and Jamie Dobie starts at scrum-half.

There are four changes in the pack, including an all-new front row, with Oli Kebble, Johnny Matthews and Murphy Walker replacing Bhatti, Brown and Fagerson. Rob Harley, who gets the nod ahead of Gray at lock, could be playing his final match at Scotstoun following the announcement that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season.

Ryan Wilson will captain Glasgow Warriors against Zebre. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

His team-mates donned ginger wigs in training to pay tribute to Glasgow’s longest serving player.

“It is a great opportunity to celebrate Rob’s career,” said Wilson. “It is phenomenal his achievements and what he has done over a 12-year period at the club. That needs to be celebrated and recognised.”

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