Only half the 18 players who toured with Scotland in the summer will feature in Glasgow’s opening Guinness PRO14 game at Connacht tonight, but it’s indicative of their retooled squad how strong the starting team is.
The Dave Rennie era starts with Alex Dunbar will make his 100th appearance for the club and there are debuts for former All Black Lelia Masaga and George Turner, the hooker who could barely get a game in three years for Edinburgh but is in the first competitive Warriors team since he moved along the M8.
Ruaridh Jackson, newly re-recruited after two years in England, starts at full-back with Peter Horne at stand-off in an attacking Warriors line-up which will still miss three main stalwarts – Jonny Gray, Stuart Hogg and Fraser Brown – for more than a month.
Assistant coach Jon Humphreys said that there was always plenty of unknowns about the start of the season but they feel they know what Connacht, themselves under new management with Rennie’s old assistant Keiron Keane, will try to do.
“There’s different people in place with Glasgow, there’s different coaches in place with Connacht,” he pointed out. “With pre-season games you can’t really tell a lot – everybody’s just hiding what they’re going to do.
“We think they’re not going to be as adventurous as they were in the past, a bit more
pragmatic, but in these early-season games you’ve got to concentrate on yourself.
“We haven’t talked a lot about selection until the last couple of weeks. We wanted to have a look at who played well and see who would be there on the form that we had. It’s a very strong team; it’s a team that’s keen to put a mark down.”
Jackson won his place last week with a strong performance against Dragons that included a try.
“It’s just like he’s never been away,” said Humphreys. “He’s played 100 times for this club and he’s positive and enthusiastic.”
Masaga has not played competitively for some time, but set up a length of the field try for Scott Cumming in the final trial against Dragons last week.
“He’s an infectious guy,” said Humphreys. “He’s great around the environment. He’s probably not where he needs to be, I think there’s a lot more to come from him. But he adds a little bit of X factor.”
Cummings, who starts after an injured-marred campaign last year, is one player Humphreys is keen to see develop.
“He’s a great athlete, and it’s a pleasure to work with him” he said of the 20-year-old. “It’s an area where we have real strength, we’ve got some real good coverage in the second row.
“Last year a lot of injuries left us a little bare and I think it had a real impact on what happened during the season. Scott’s potentially very, very good and I’m really excited about him.”
Injuries to front rowers Alex Allan and D’Arcy Rae mean new recruit Oli Kebble is listed as a replacement only two weeks after arriving from the Stormers. Rob Harley is also not available due to a niggling injury but the rest of Glasgow’s established stars are being rested.
Glasgow (vs Connacht, Galway Sportsground, tonight ko 7.35, live on BBC Alba)
Ruaridh Jackson; Lelia Masaga, Alex Dunbar, Sam Johnson, Lee Jones; Peter Horne, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Tim Swinson, Scott Cummings; Ryan Wilson (capt), Matt Smith, Adam Ashe.
Replacements: James Malcolm, Oli Kebble, Adam Nicol, Greg Peterson, Matt Fagerson, Henry Pyrgos, Adam Hastings, Leonardo Sarto.