Veteran Fergus Thomson back for Glasgow in crunch clash at Scarlets

ONE of the longest-serving and most popular members of the Glasgow Warriors squad will head up the team’s bid to stay at the top end of the RaboDirect PRO12 when they face Scarlets in Llanelli tonight (kick-off 6.15pm).

Fergus Thomson, the hooker who has played 122 games for the club since 2003, will make his first appearance of the season in the west Wales clash, having recovered from the shoulder injury which forced him to withdraw from the Scotland Rugby World Cup squad.

Thomson’s inclusion comes as one of seven changes to the Warriors team that lifted the 1872 Cup for the fourth time in five seasons by beating Edinburgh Rugby 17-12 on New Year’s Day.

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In the backline, Rob Dewey lines up at outside centre in place of Stuart Hogg, who was yesterday called up to the Scotland squad for the RBS 6 Nations six days after winning a long-term full professional contract with the Warriors. The other switches behind the scrum see Tommy Seymour replace Colin Shaw on the wing, and Henry Pyrgos and Ruaridh Jackson team up in an all-new half-back pairing.

There is another fresh unit in the second row, where Tom Ryder and Rob Verbakel reprise the partnership that helped the Warriors secure a win at Cardiff Blues and a draw at Dragons on their last two visits to the Principality.

Graeme Morrison will captain the team in the absence of Al Kellock, while Scottish Rugby Elite Development scrum-half Murray McConnell, an unused substitute at Rodney Parade last month, is in line to make his Warriors debut from the bench.

Glasgow have won on two of their previous ventures to Parc y Scarlets, but emerged on the wrong side of the scoreline in each of last season’s meetings with Nigel Davies’ men, and are well aware that Scarlets have lost only once at home in the RaboDirect PRO12 this term.

Head coach Sean Lineen said: “This is another massive test against a side who will be looking to put pressure on us in terms of the RaboDirect PRO12 table. We’ve drawn our last three away matches between this competition and the Heineken Cup, and while we’ve been pleased with a number of the qualities that have shone through in those games, it’s about going that one step further and discovering more of a clinical edge.”

The Scarlets field a strong and attacking back line with George North and Scottish international Sean Lamont on the wing, Jon Davies and Scott Williams in centre partnership with Rhys Priestland at outside half and Gareth Davies at scrum-half.

Hooker Matthew Rees leads his Scarlets side with Iestyn Thomas returning to the front row and Deacon Manu starting at tighthead with plenty of power on the bench with replacement forwards Ken Owens, Rhys Thomas, Josh Turnbull, Aaron Shingler and Rhodri Jones.