Dave Rennie’s growing injury crisis at Glasgow Warriors will spill over into Gregor Townsend’s Scotland 6 Nations campaign with the revelation that Zander Fagerson and Fraser Brown could be out for months as much as weeks.
Fagerson, probable first choice at tighthead prop for Townsend in the 6 Nations opener in Cardiff, is out of that game and possibly the entire spring after suffering a foot injury in an accident at the gym at Scotstoun this week.
With Simon Berghan suspended for the Welsh game on February 3 after his red card in the opening 1872 Cup game before Christmas and WP Nel recovering from a broken arm, Townsend may have to turn to Newcastle’s Jon Welsh, who hasn’t played for Scotland since he was a replacement in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final in 2015.
Brown, a certainty for the squad for the match against Wales, could be sidelined for an indefinite period as his recurring concussions are investigated by a neurologist.
In addition to those the Warriors have lost key man Callum Gibbins for up to 12 weeks after attempts to manage his achilles injury were deemed ineffective and he underwent surgery, while young lock Scott Cummings injured a hand in mauling practice and could miss eight weeks.
Rennie has shuffled his hand and will continue rotate his team with both Finn Russell and Jonny Gray required for today’s visit to Zebre, but he admitted that the catalogue of injuries was becoming challenging.
“Zander is one of those frustrating injuries, he knocked something over and it fell on his foot in the gym,” said the head coach. “The guide is six to eight weeks but it’s probably longer, it is his foot, and from a scrummaging viewpoint a lot of load goes through that.”
As for Brown, circumstances of recent concussions – the latest against Edinburgh in the second 1872 Cup game – required some detailed attention, said Rennie.
“As often happens, he has no symptoms now, he has completed all the protocols, but he has had two or three head knocks this season already,” said Rennie.
“We just want to dig a little deeper. If he gets a knock on the head he seems okay but if he gets a knock on the jaw he ends up getting knocked out, but comes back reasonably quickly.
“We don’t want to rush him back in until we know a bit more. Rugby is a small part of your life. You have a lot of years post rugby and we have to make sure we are doing everything to assist the players in that regard.”
Scotland skipper John Barclay underwent the same kind of investigation prior to the Six Nations and missed six weeks, but Rennie said in Brown’s case it will take “as long as it takes” to get a solution.
“Fraser is frustrated, but he is a positive character,” added the head coach. “He also wants to get more clarity as to why it’s happening.”
The loss of Gibbins and Cummings will put pressure on his squad and the forthcoming 6 Nations as well, Rennie continued.
“We always knew going into the 6 Nations that we would need to go deep into our squad. With all these injuries were going to have to go even deeper.
“It’s true that Munster didn’t gain any ground on us but the Cheetahs have two games in hand against the Kings and you’d imagine they will get 10 points from that.
“Hopefully all the guys will be back in time for the business end of the season and we will have plenty to pick from. It is a good test of where we are at and a great opportunity for a lot of our young fellows.”
George Horne will start at scrum-half and Chris Fusaro makes his first start of the season in Zebre, while Adam Ashe is fit to make his return on the bench.
Glasgow (vs Zebre, Guinness PRO14, Parma, today ko 3.30 pm, live on BBC Alba): Ruaridh Jackson; Lee Jones, Huw Jones, Nick Grigg, Niko Matawalu; Finn Russell, George Horne; Alex Allan, Pat MacArthur, Siua Halanukonuka; Greg Peterson, Jonny Gray; Rob Harley (capt), Chris Fusaro, Matt Fagerson. Replacements: James Malcolm, Oli Kebble, D’Arcy Rae, Kiran McDonald, Adam Ashe, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne, Brandon Thomson.