Glasgow may have been shorn of their international contingent, have three key non-Scottsih qualified men out injured, and be without head coach Dave Rennie attending his son’s wedding but that’s no excuse for any drop in standards tonight against the Ospreys.
Assistant coach Kenny Murray pointed out the 13 of the team playing the Welshmen at Scotstoun tonight played in the return fixture in Swansea during the November test window, and were good enough to win 29-20 that night.
In addition, the attitude of the club this season is that whoever plays, standards have to remain the same, he added.
“We did that in the autumn,” said Murray. “We didn’t accept that playing with not a strong a team was a get-out for guys not performing well.
“When you put that jersey on you’ve got to perform and I think now even more so this week because the Ospreys are so close to us in the conference.
“It’s such an important game we could either go nine or ten ahead of them or could end up maybe a couple of points ahead of them.”
Club captain Callum Gibbins, prop Oli Kebble and wing DTH van der Merwe are all out injured, joined by Chris Fusaro who was a likely candidate to captain the team, as well as 11 players held back by the national management team in advance of next week’s 6 Nations opener – the uncapped Sam Johnson and Grant Stewart among them.
That means Kevin Bryce will start and Academy player Robbie Smith covers hooker on the bench, and Murray paid tribute to how far Bryce had come on returning to Glasgow from Edinburgh, where he briefly changed from hooker to tight-head prop.
“When he initially came back to us Kevin had put on a bit more weight to play at prop, so the conditioning guys have had to work with him,” said Murray.
“But he’s made real inroads in terms of losing weight and changing his body composition, so he’s in a much better position. He was away from professional rugby for a while so it took him a bit just to get his body right, but he’s trained well for us and he was on the bench against Saracens.
“He’s obviously an important player for us now, with both Fraser and George coming back from injury and Grant in the Scotland squad. This is an important game for Kevin to show us what he can do.”
The international windows have a huge effect on play-off qualification, so it’s vital that Glasgow do as well as they did in November.
“During that autumn test period we managed to get 16 points, so that’s a real big achievement for us when we know we are missing so many of the guys,” said Murray.
“The Ospreys win away from home was a big win, that Scarlets win at home, in the context of that game, going down to 14 men, it was really important for our young guys to see that game out.
“We looked at the next seven weeks and set up a wee mini six nations league for ourselves in terms of winning games and getting points.
“This will basically determine where we end up at the end of the season and the play-off positions.”
Glasgow team: Ruaridh Jackson; Lee Jones, Nick Grigg, Stafford McDowall, Niko Matawalu; Brandon Thomson, Nick Frisby; Alex Allan, Kevin Bryce, Siua Halanukonuka; Tim Swinson, Scott Cumming; Rob Harley (capt), Matt Smith, Adam Ashe.
Replacements: Robbie Smith, Jamie Bhatti, D’Arcy Rae, Tevita Tameilau, Thomas Gordon, Robbie Nairn, Alex Dunbar, Rory Hughes.