Dave Rennie won’t have his protégé Aaron Cruden at Glasgow Warriors next season nor on-field lieutenant Callum Gibbins for tonight’s crunch meeting with Edinburgh.
The Kiwi head coach of the Warriors had been playing a straight bat to speculation that the former All Black stand-off might be on his way to Scotstoun next season, but admitted to the BBC yesterday any deal had fallen through.
“He’s not coming,” Rennie said of Cruden, who he coached for New Zealand Under-20s, Manuwatu and the Chiefs before both men came to Europe, the coach to Glasgow and the player to a lucrative contract at Montpellier.
“There was a lot of speculation around Aaron and has been for a long period of time. I’m constantly talking to him. I know him well and we’re pretty close.
“I’d love him to join us. I think he’d be great around educating our young 10s, Adam (Hastings) and Brandon (Thomson), but he’s not coming.”
Meanwhile Gibbins is still not right after a head knock he sustained against Saracens a month ago and with Chris Fusaro also out with a hamstring injury, Matt Smith out for the season with a shoulder problem and Ryan Wilson only coming back on the bench, Rennie has needed a new openside and a new captain.
Experienced hooker Fraser Brown takes over the captaincy, while Tom Gordon, with only three appearances under his belt, will play in his first 1872 Cup game.
“It’s a great opportunity for Tom,” said Rennie. “He’s started one game for us and had a couple of cameos and we’ve got a lot of faith in him, so it’s a big game for him.
“What we’ve seen from him is that he’s a really good athlete, he carries the ball superbly, he’s really brutal around clean out and that’s going to be important against guys like Hamish Watson and John Barclay. We don’t think it’s a risk, it’s a good challenge for him.”
Gibbins failed a cognitive test for concussion last week and while “feeling great” will not be risked for another week, should the Warriors actually need to play next week.
“He’ll do cog tests again today, hopefully do contact tomorrow and he’ll be ready to go for next week,” said Rennie. “It’s taken a little bit longer than we would have hoped, but he hasn’t got a massive history of concussions like some, so it’s just a case of him feeling good and then ticking all the boxes. We’ll save him for another day.”
Rennie believes the two losses to Edinburgh this season – and four in the five he’s coached in the 1872 Cup games – are about form rather than anything deeper.
“You can over-think this stuff,” he said. “For a month around that time we weren’t playing very well; we were pretty average against Lyon in the sleet and snow, we then lost two in a row to Edinburgh and then lost to Treviso the following week.
“I guess we had our flat patch in the middle and we’ve been a lot better since then. We’re well aware that they’re a good side and they’ve got a certain game that can shake you, so we need to be really strong around our high ball reception, limit our errors and the set-piece will need to go well.
“We know they’re going to kick a lot of ball to us, try to track and force errors.
“The advantage they’ll have is they’ll know what they’ll need to do, or if there’s any chance at all (of playoffs). Regardless, we know they’ll bring plenty whether they’re in the race or not.”
The Warriors, on the other hand, are a better team than they were four months ago.
“They’ve got a lot of international forwards, seven in their side, but Fraser Brown, Zander (Fagerson), Scott Cummings, those guys didn’t play in those earlier games.
“We’ve certainly got a better team on the paddock and I think we’re playing better footy. But they’re a tough team that is doing well and we’re going to have to earn our points.”
Glasgow team: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, Niki Matawalu; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown (capt), Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray; Rob Harley, Tom Gordon, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Alex Allan, D’Arcy Rae, Tevita Tameilau, Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Peter Horne, Rory Hughes.