Scott Cummings has “a point of difference” to the other second rows in Scotland and will kick on further from his World Cup performances, believes Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie.
Rennie gave Cummings plenty of opportunities in the latter half of last season, as the youngster – not 23 until next month – kept Jonny Gray out of the starting line-up, and translated that into a last minute call up for Japan, where he played some part in all four games.
The lock is one of five Scotland squad players who make their Guinness PRO14 return against Zebre in Parma today, Ryan Wilson returning to skipper the side with Fraser Brown, Sam Johnson and Tommy Seymour all included.
“Even last year when we got to the quarter-finals in Europe, we left Jonny Gray out in favour of Scott, who had been outstanding while Jonny had been away on international duty,” said Rennie. “He’s a smart kid. He does a really good job around running the lineout, and he’s a real point of difference from most Scottish locks, I think, because he’s an athlete and picks good lines to run, and he creates good go-forward.”
Cummings has also developed a healthy edge to his play in the last year, believes Rennie.
“He’s developed really well over the last 12 months around clean and tackle, and got a lot more brutality,” he continued. “When Jonny forced his way back into the team, it was alongside Scott.
“I think Scotty was one of our best in the play-off series, and one of the best players on the field in the final.
“It was great to see him get an opportunity at the World Cup and kick on and be invaluable to them.”
A slightly more experienced player gets a new role with Seymour set to play a lot of full-back this year now that Stuart Hogg has departed.
“We always said we were keen to play Tommy at 15 and in Cardiff last year he played really well there,” said Rennie. “He is good under the high ball, has a great skills set and is experienced and can organise the back three. We have pretty good depth at wing so we’re keen to see him there.
“We spoke to him about it last year when we signed him on longer term. Going forward that will be a good position for him and he was pretty sound about that.”
It also gives a chance for Ratu Tagive to play more, in addition to the wing now being a Scottish qualified player.
“To be honest he has really forced our hands this year because he is playing superbly,” said Rennie. “Every time we have given him an opportunity to play in pre-season he has been excellent.
“He was unlucky not to be playing early based on us needing Nick Frisbee and Callum Gibbins (as foreign-qualified players) on the field but it gives us an opportunity now.”
The 50-0 romp over Kings has got the Warriors going in the right direction, and they’re looking for another confidence lift before going into Europe.
“Tomorrow is important for us,” added Rennie. “We put ourselves under a little bit of pressure early, but I guess the good thing is you’ve got 21 rounds so there’s plenty of recovery time.
“It’s nice to get some of the guys back in last week and again this week in preparation for Europe. It’s an exciting time for us and it’s a chance to make a bit of a statement tomorrow.”
Glasgow team: Tommy Seymour, Ratu Tagive, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, George Horne; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Tom Swinson, Scott Cummings; Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Alex Allan, D’arcy Rae, Kiran McDonald, Tom Gordon, Nick Frisby, Ruaridh Jackson, Huw Jones.