Glasgow Warriors get a huge boost by welcoming back six of their World Cup players for the visit of the Southern Kings but Jonny Gray is to be rested for another month, revealed head coach Dave Rennie.
Rennie brings back Pete and George Horne, Adam Hastings, DTH van der Merwe and Zander Fagerson to the starting line-up while George Turner is on the bench for visit of the winless South African team, with all the returnees on schedule rather than fast-tracked to help arrest the Warriors’ poor start to the season.
Sam Johnson, Tommy Seymour, Scott Cummings, Fraser Brown and Ryan Wilson will be back in training full-time next week, but Gray is getting a six week break due to the “cumulative” wear and tear on the second row in the last year.
“He did not play a lot of footie before the World Cup because of injury but he has played a lot for us and long term, from a Scottish perspective with the Six Nations and a pretty challenging summer tour, he is being managed for a little longer,” said Rennie.
“He will have six weeks out and I anticipate him being back in time to face Leinster prior to Europe round three (on November 30).”
Rennie said he could have brought some of his internationalists back for last week’s game against Dragons, but wanted to make sure all were “mentally fresh and ready to go”.
“There is a big run of games now right through to the end of January,” he pointed out. “It has been great, the guys are full of energy and enthusiasm and bring a lot of experience and the injection of these boys will help us.
“We are disappointed because we have been training well and preparing well but not performing well enough. Last week, we had twice the number of line breaks the Dragons had, twice the tackle breaks but we also had twice the errors.
“That hurt us. We have conceded six tries in the last three games and four of them have been when we were in possession. That tells a story.
“But clearly when you have George Horne, Adam Hastings and Peter Horne out there, there is going to be a lot of communication, which is something that has probably been missing a bit.”
Rennie has focused this week on lessening the pressure on the younger players in the squad which may be felt after just opne win in their first four games – as poor a run at the warriors have endured for several seasons.
“I caught up with the guys (coming back) and stressed the importance of enthusiasm. A few of our boys are pretty disappointed, as you would imagine, but there are a few young men in among that who have played a lot of footie for us.
“We had a pretty brutal review of the Dragons game on Monday, but from then on, it has all been about being really positive.
“Ultimately we have dropped a couple of games we should not have done. That implies there is pressure and we are just focusing on the next task, but the key is that we need to win and win again the following week.
“If we perform a well, we know we can. We are still really positive, we know what we need to do and hope to see evidence of that against the Kings.”
Rennie has been impressed with two players who have had good shifts in the team since the start of the season.
“Kiran [McDonald] has been outstanding for us, he has always been a good athlete but he has brought a lot of edge to his game,” continued the coach. “He has responsibility for calling our line out and he has given us a bit of line speed defensively.
“Glenn Bryce carried really strongly last week and was really assertive. He has an excellent skillset and suits the kind of game we are trying to play and also kicks very well. It is nice to reward these guys.”
Another of the World Cup contingent, Ali Price, is recovering from his foot injury sustained in Japan and could come into the reckoning for the first European Champion’s Cup game against Sale in a fortnight.
Glasgow team: Glenn Bryce; Niko Matawalu, Huw Jones, Pete Horne, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, George Horne; Oli Kebble, Grant Stewart, Zander Fagerson; Tim Swinson, Kiran McDonald; Rob Harley, Callum Gibbins (capt), Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Alex Allan, D’Arcy Rae, Andrew Davidson, Chris Fusaro, Jamie Dobie, Stafford McDowall, Ratu Tagive.