Two weeks after being dropped by Scotland, Jonny Gray has suffered the same indignity for Glasgow Warriors’ biggest game of the season and will be on the bench for the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens.
Stuart Hogg returns to action for the first time since suffering his shoulder injury against Ireland in the 6 Nations, so it’s not as if Dave Rennie is tossing in his chips with the Warriors overwhelming underdogs away to a team that has beaten them in their last three European meetings.
But Scott Cummings is preferred to Gray in the second row alongside Tim Swinson, completing what’s been a miserable season for the industrious lock who was pretty much Glasgow and Scotland’s first name on the teamsheet for the last four years.
Rennie said that the selection was “more about Scott Cummings” than Gray and denied that the 51-times capped lock was still struggling with a shoulder injury that forced him off at half-time during Glasgow’s loss to Saracens at Allianz Park in January.
“Scott’s done an excellent job around calling our lineout, he’s made really good shifts around his physicality, he’s a really good athlete, and he runs good lines,” said Rennie.
“He’s just played really well and we wanted to reward that. He is a big part of our defensive lineout, our defensive maul and so on. We’d just like to stick with the combination we had last week so Jonny will make an impact off the bench this week.”
Gray had a shoulder injury prior to the last Saracens game and while he was with Scotland during the 6 Nations it had been admitted that the injury as being “managed”, but Rennie said that the player had “done a lot of rehab, he’s over that now”.
Certainly it seems like the close season can’t come quick enough for Gray, but not for Hogg.
“It’s brilliant to have him back, and you can imagine he is at his effervescent best,” said Rennie. “He is desperate to be out there and he brings a lot of confidence.
“Obviously he is lethal with the ball in hand but the quality of his kicking game is really important for us this week as well.”
With Nick Grigg now ruled out for eight weeks after his ankle injury during the Calcutta Cup game, the Warriors are short in midfield so Sam Johnson and Stafford McDowall will play and inside-outside arrangement , while Pete Horne only just made the travelling squad and Adam Hastings will start.
“There’s not much between those guys,” continued Rennie. “Peter didn’t train until yesterday, and there was a question mark at the start of the week about whether we would get him back at all, so we made the call to go with Adam, who has been in really good form for Scotland.
“He’s got a bit of x-factor about him, a really good skill-set, and we’re confident that he’ll steel up for this pretty important encounter.
“We are minus a couple of backs from the last time we played, but we’ve got back some good depth. Callum Gibbins didn’t play last time and we feel the bench will have a really big impact.
“We’re strong up front while George (Horne) and Pete and Niko (Matawalu) can add a bit of spark, but obviously it is vital that our starting group lays the foundation.”
Glasgow know they are underdogs, but will throw everything into the game.
“We’re certainly not satisfied just being part of the group that made it out of the pools, we want to create a bit of history,” he added.
“We’re clear in what we need to do. We know where the opportunities are and we know where their threats are as well.
“The key is that we’ve got to be good enough for 80 minutes. Ultimately, it comes down to winning key moments – you are not going to win them all – so you have to be really resilient without the ball and really clinical with it.
“I think if we manage that for a big chunk of the 80 minutes then we’ve got a chance.”