Dave Rennie has stuck with his decision to bench struggling stand-off Adam Hastings despite the experienced Pete Horne’s knee injury and Brandon Thomson will start Glasgow Warriors’ crucial Heineken Champions Cup game against Cardiff Blues on Sunday.
The 23-year-old former South Africa Under-20 cap has made only rare starts for the club in just over two seasons – the most recent wins over the Scarlets and Ospreys in November – but he’s been handed the reins after Horne, the original choice to play at 10, pulled up again in training this week.
Hastings, suffering through a dip in form after a fine season, was set not to be involved at all but now comes on the bench as half-back cover. The Warriors will also be without Jonny Gray but recall Stuart Hogg, Nick Grigg, Ali Price and both frontline wings, as well as key prop Oli Kebble.
“We were going to play Pete at ten but his knee was not any good when we came in on Tuesday so we made the decision to withdraw him,” said Rennie. “We were keen to give Brandon a crack as he played well last time out at Scarlets and Ospreys.
“It is a big game, but so is the confidence we have in him. I thought he was excellent against Scarlets and very strong against Ospreys when he started and played 80 minutes.
“He has been training with us for a year and a half and he is clear about what we’re trying to do. It’s exciting for him.”
As for Hastings, he “understands there are consequences for maybe not performing as well as he had done earlier”, continued Rennie.
“Adam has played really well, better than I thought he would, in the first few weeks of the year,” said the coach. “There are only little parts of his game that have hurt him with regard to decision making but he is aware of that and has been working very hard on that the last couple of weeks.
“I don’t think (the problem is) mental. Some of it is a bit of skill set stuff; at times he is probably trying too much on his own.
“Last week, when he got the ball out of his hands early to Sam Johnson to give him some time and space to make decisions – and Sam is a real handful. It’s about getting a bit of balance to his game. “Adam’s a pretty confident kicker of a ball and he probably needs to give us more field position at times. He knows what he’s not doing well enough and he’s good enough to make shifts, but this weekend it’s going to be off the bench.”
Gray’s shoulder injury was a late decision and is not expected to be an issue beyond this week. Horne’s knee was scanned and just requires rest and treatment, and he should be fit for the Six Nations.
Cardiff have picked a young side – with a few exceptions, including Wales international Josh Navidi – but if anything that makes Rennie “more nervous”.
“I understand what they’ve done because we did something similar last year when we were out of the mix, took a pretty young side to Leinster and then brought a lot of guys back for Exeter at home,” said the head coach. “They’re obviously thinking the same way after three big derby games.
“To be honest, it makes me more nervous. What we know is that we can’t underestimate anyone. Our focus has pretty much been on us because we weren’t sure what they would bring.
“We just need to be good both sides of the ball. If we bring the level of physicality and the level of accuracy, can hang onto the ball and create turnovers through line speed in defence, then hopefully we can hurt them from there.”
With Gray withdrawn, Rob Harley will make his record 200th appearance for the Warriors and his team-mates are entering into the spirit, with yesterday’s training session conducted in ginger wigs to commemorate the 28-year-old being the only – natural – redhead on the squad.
Glasgow team: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe; Brandon Thomson, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Grant Stewart, D’Arcy Rae; Rob Harley, Scott Cummings; Ryan Wilson, Callum Gibbins, Matt Fagerson. Replacements: Kevin Bryce, Alex Allan, Pertus du Plessis, Tim Swinson, Chris Fusaro, George Horne, Adam Hastings, Lee Jones.