Eight changes from the team that romped to Glasgow’s biggest-ever win in France won’t “weaken us at all” for the return game at Scotstoun, believes Warriors head coach Dave Rennie.
George Horne and Adam Ashe ended up in most media outlets’ “Team of the Week” for their displays in Lyon but neither makes the 23 for the return fixture. Only one of Rennie’s changes is enforced, hooker Fraser Brown set to miss 8-10 weeks – and therefore the front end of the Six Nations – with a knee problem he picked up in France.
“We are conscious that the likes of Adam have played a fair bit of footie in the last few weeks and is pretty battered,” said Rennie. “Nick (Grigg) gets a rest, he has played a big chunk of minutes over the last five or six weeks, we have Pete Horne on the bench who can cover 10 and midfield.
“We have made a few changes because it will give us a bit of edge. We have eight guys who are determined to make a bit of a statement, guys who were not part of the mix last week.
“If you put the same squad out as last week, maybe deep down the guys would think it was going to be a little bit easier than it is. We’ve made a number of changes which we don’t think weakens us at all.”
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising change is the inclusion of 20-year-old Stafford McDowall, who only signed his first pro contract this week and gets the start at inside centre ahead of Alex Dunbar, who has picked up a minor shoulder tweak.
“We are very happy with what Stafford has put on the park in the last four or five weeks, he has a very good skill set with regards to distribution and kicking,” continued Rennie.
“He has a massive work ethic and does provide a bit of size but it is his composure that has impressed us most. It’s a big game for him but he has good players around him.
“He’s played a bit of 15 as well, but we think 12 is more suited to him. He’s got a very good skill set and we’re comfortable with him.”
Lyon may be almost certainly out of the competition after three successive defeats but Rennie is wary that they may throw caution to the wind.
“What we know is they’ve got nothing to lose – they can just come over and play and express themselves,” he said. “That makes them potentially dangerous this week, so we’re keen to put out a strong side and make sure we’ve got plenty of edge about us.
“The boys have prepared really well and the expectation is they deliver tomorrow.”
Glasgow have also secured prop Oli Kebble on a year’s contract extension, adding to the two-year deal he is set to complete at the end of this season.
The South African-born loosehead prop will therefore become eligible for Scotland at the end of his new deal, having signed his original deal before the change in residency qualification from three years to five.
Kebble was injured for much of last season but has been a dominant force for the Warriors in the scrummage on his return to full fitness during the current campaign.
Glasgow team: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Stafford McDowall, Niko Matawalu; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, George Turner, Suia Halanukonuka; Tim Swinson, Jonny Gray; Ryan Wilson, Callum Gibbins, Matt Fagerson. Replacements: Grant Stewart, Jamie Bhatti, Petrus du Plessis, Ron Harley, Chris Fusaro, Nick Frisby, Pete Horne, Robbie Nairn.