Finn Russell is “desperate” to leave Glasgow with another Guinness PRO14 title but his dip in form has him dropped to the bench as the Warriors aim to book their home advantage for the play-offs against Connacht tonight.
Dave Rennie has never been shy in his first season to drop one of the Warriors’ biggest star names and goes with Peter Horne at 10 tonight with Russell in the stands.
“To win the league we need Finn to be playing at his best,” said Rennie. “He was a couple of shades off it (against Scarlets) last week.
“We are going into the business end of the season and I want (the players) to understand that regardless of reputation we are just going to play guys that we think will do the job for us.”
That doesn’t appear to be Russell at the moment, who hasn’t really hit the heights since his man of the match performance in the Calcutta Cup game at the end of February. The stand-off is leaving the Warriors for Racing 92 this summer and Rennie sees no reason why he can’t give Horne and Adam Hastings more starts as they will be the leading candidates for the 10 jersey next season.
“Finn is pretty clear of expectations,” continued the head coach. “He is desperate to leave this club with another title and leading the way.
“But ultimately you are judged by your performance and judged by your preparation. If guys don’t perform as expected you have two options. You give them another crack or you apply pressure by showing confidence in others.
“Finn has had a pretty good run of it with Scotland starting every game so we are keen to give Horney a start.”
The Cupar man certainly appears to be a Rennie favourite and the coach wants to give him “more time in the seat”.
“There is every chance he will play a lot of footy next season for us at ten along with Adam Hastings who has been really good for us as well.
“I have a lot of confidence in (Horne). His attention to detail is excellent. He is very professional in his preparation .
“Finn is a special player. He is the first to admit he was a bit short of expectations last week and he is determined to show that was a one-off when he gets the opportunity off the bench on Friday night.”
Rennie put down last week’s performance against Scarlets – easily their poorest of the league season – to the coaches “getting too much into them last week”.
“The international boys have had a lengthy programme and were away from us for nine weeks, and we gave them a couple of weeks to freshen up mentally and physically,” he continued.
“When we have a blip, if it was a blip, we work out what part we as coaches played in that. We wondered if we tried to get too much into them last week from a mental point of view. We were a bit sluggish.
“It’s not easy for them to fit straight back in, that’s why we didn’t rush them. But we expected a better performance last week, we’ve had a look at everything we have done. We’ve prepared well this week, we expect a better performance.”
Rennie recalls Fraser Brown and Alex Dunbar – who ended up missing the whole Six Nations and months of action after an injury early in the New Year – to the side.
Scott Cummings returns to the second row to partner Jonny Gray while Matt Fagerson, recalled from the Scotland 7s squad headed for the Commonwealth Games, goes straight back into the side with Ryan Wilson out for some weeks with a chest problem.
Glasgow (vs Connacht, Guinness PRO14, Scotstoun, ko 7.35pm, live on BBC ALBA) S Hogg; T Seymour, S Johnston, A Dunbar, DTH van der Merwe; P Horne, H Pyrgos; A Allan, F Brown, Z Fagerson; S Cummings, J Gray; R Harley, C Gibbins (capt), M Fagerson.
Replacements: G Stewart, J Bhatti, S Halanukonuka, K McDonald, C Fusaro, A Price, F Russell, N Matawalu.