Glasgow Warriors’ head coach Danny Wilson will roll the dice starting Academy players Ross Thompson and Rufus McLean in the second leg of the 1872 Cup against Edinburgh at Scotstoun.
Stand-off Thompson (20) had a brief cameo off the bench in the 10-7 loss at Murrayfield last weekend in his first appearance for the club. Wing McLean (19) will be making his first senior start having been a star in Scotland’s Under-20 campaign last year.
Wilson also recalls centre Robbie Fergusson – not a youngster but a relative novice at 15s these days with his long term attachment to the 7s set-up. With no rugby below elite level so far this season the trio have virtually no miles on the clock, but now’s the time to take a chance, believes the coach.
“It is a year about trying to unearth and bring players through,” he said of the disrupted 2020-21 season. “We’re always trying to win games, but at the same time the goalposts have moved a little bit so we’re reacting to that.
“It does gives us a chance to play a few younger guys in a derby. We have to use this season for that.”
McLean has impressed in training and would have played before now but for a “couple of covid situations”, said the head coach.
“He has been training well, looking sharp with bags of gas,” added the coach. “Hopefully he gets to show that, and he’s got some experience around him Lee Jones and Huw Jones, plus Nick Grigg inside him.”
Thompson in on merit
Thompson’s start ahead of Brandon Thomson is on merit, he added.
“We’ve graded Ross in, with a little bit of time off the bench last week and a lot more exposure in training of being in the main team rather than `opposition’,” he said.
“I am learning about him as I go as well, but I think he deserves an opportunity.”
The 20-year-old has a chance to claim a stronger role with Adam Hastings’ departure this summer, but there were no guarantees, said Wilson.
“10 is certainly a position we need to strengthen now and for the future,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we do try to recruit and strengthen there, and also grow it from within.
“That doesn’t mean because you are a young Scottish player you are guaranteed that opportunity. They’ve got to prove it as well. That’s the only way we get competition and get players to be better and better.”
Sam Johnson has been ruled out as a covid close contact from outside the club, and Oli Kebble returns at loose-head to strengthen an area the Warriors’ struggled last week.
Gilchrist back after injury
Edinburgh’s Richard Cockerill expects that Glasgow will have corrected their scrummage while he hopes to have sorted is team’s lineout for the second leg.
His recall of Grant Gilchrist after injury and Andrew Davidson should help in that regard, but Ben Toolis, Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham are all unavailable.
“We had eight penalties against Glasgow at the scrum last week,” he pointed out. “They had a final warning after the third one but there were no consequences from that.
“That’s been fed back and dealt with. I’m sure Glasgow will be a far tougher prospect at the scrum this weekend – they’ve probably been practising scrummaging while we’ve been practising lineouts.”
‘We don’t try to play a turgid game’
Cockerill will be happy with any kind of win, and he bristles at the notion his team prefer a contest with little entertainment like last week’s.
“We don’t try to play a turgid game,” he said. “We actually try to play, we score tries, we are an expensive team as and when we have the opportunity.
“What people need to understand is that with the new interpretations at the breakdown it is actually easier to play without the ball then with it.
“That’s why teams across the world kick the ball so much – because you have more chance of losing the ball when you have it in your own half then keeping it. The defensive team gets the majority of the advantage these days.”
Mike Adamson, newly appointed to his first Six Nations game later this spring, will be on the whistle for the second leg.
Glasgow: Huw Jones; Lee Jones, Nick Grigg, Robbie Fergusson, Rufus McLean; Ross Thompson, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Richie Gray, Scott Cummings; Ryan Wilson, Tom Gordon, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Aki Seuili, Enrique Pieretto, Lewis Bean, TJ Ioane, Jamie Dobie, Brandon Thomson, Glenn Bryce.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn; Eroni Sau, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Jack Blain; Jaco van der Walt, Nic Groom; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan; Andrew Davidson, Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: David Cherry, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Jamie Hodgson, Magnus Bradbury, Henry Pyrgos, Nathan Chamberlain, James Johnstone.