Competition for places at Glasgow Warriors is so intense that club captain Ryan Wilson can’t force his way into the 23 for this week’s Heineken Champions’ Cup game against Lyon in central France.
Wilson is the one to give way with Dave Rennie wanting to reward Adam Ashe and Matt Fagerson for their recent form, the importance of co-captain Calum Gibbins and the preference for a ball-winner on the bench in Chris Fusaro.
Rennie has had a number of marginal choices to make – George Horne instead of Ali Price, Nick Grigg for Huw Jones – because of the Warriors’ excellent form in the November international window.
“Ryan’s played pretty well for Scotland in that time, but Adam has been outstanding for us and we wanted to bring Matt in, both those boys have really good footwork and give us go-forward and carries,” said the head coach.
“It’s based on form. Those loose forwards will have to share the load and we wanted a specialist seven on the bench in Chris knowing that Rob Harley can move from lock to 6 if we have a couple of injuries there.
“Ryan misses out this week but as captain he’s been outstanding, he’s contributed massively to the preparation and I’ve been really impressed by him this week.”
Nick Grigg is also retained “because he’s been outstanding on both sides of the ball” at the expense of Jones, while “there was nothing in the choice” between Horne and Price.
Rennie thinks that Glasgow have solved the failings they had in last year’s competition, when they were often outmuscled and especially struggled defending the driving maul close to their own line.
“You need to have a strong set piece so we have worked really hard and (forwards coach) Jon Humphreys has done a great job around our maul and our scrum – to be competitive in this competition you need to be strong up front,” he said. “I think we have defended a lot better. I think we can be better still, but denying opportunities to the opposition is massive.
“Our discipline has also been excellent – the penalty count last weekend was 17-6 and we’ve had a string of games where we have been penalised less than 10 times. That’s really important against the big sides who can put you in the corner and hurt you.”
Glasgow will have to do without Alex Allan for an important three weeks of two games against lyon and the opening 1872 Cup match after the prop’s sending off last week, but Rennie is happy to lean on Oli Kebble and Jamie Bhatti over that period.
“Jamie hasn’t got as many opportunities this year but that’s been due to the form of Oli and Alex,” said Rennie. “He has been working hard in carrying better and around the contact area.
“We weren’t surprised by the finding, but what we hope is that there’s real consistency around this. If there’s contact with the head, even if there was no malice in the action, it was more clumsy than anything else.
“But while we cop that we hope there’s real consistency around when there incidents where a player makes contact with the head, they will be treated exactly the same.”
Glasgow team: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Peter Horne, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, George Horne; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, D’Arcy Rae; Jonny Gray, Rob Harley; Adam Ashe, Calum Gibbins, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Siua Halanukonuka, Tim Swinson, Chris Fusaro, Ali Price, Huw Jones, Niko Matawalu.