DAVE RENNIE has added 12 players who did not feature against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast last weekend to his match-day squad for tomorrow’s return fixture at Scotstoun. The head coach stressed that a win in this final pre-season hit-out is not essential – but a tighter contest will certainly help generate valuable momentum before the PRO14 gets under way with a trip to Bloemfontein to take on the Cheetahs in a fortnight’s time.
Warriors had led 17-19 at half-time last Saturday before being blown away after the break when Rennie cleared his 17-man bench (including several youngster who were making their first appearances at this level), ultimately slumping to a 50-19 defeat.
“We’re not panicking after last week,” insisted the coach. “We had a few defections leading into that game and a lot of changes happened to our second half team so we ended up with a lot of inexperienced guys together. We probably could have done a better job making sure those two sides were even.
“But they [the players] learnt a lot and we learned a lot. This week we have a lot more experience, which will be important. We’ve got to get our head around the guys who will travel to South Africa, so there is going to be heaps of competition for places.
“It is about the performance as opposed to the score-line,” he added. “The first 35 minutes last week we played really well, so we want to build on that. You need to hold onto the ball for long periods against good sides like Ulster. They bring a lot of line-speed and so on, so we just wat to make sure that we get our detail right, to create quick ball with quality carry-and-cleans. We also want to see big shifts [improvements] defensively – we lacked line-speed and connection at time last week, and we lost the collisions.
“Ulster are going to be close to full-strength – we expect a lot of their big men to be on the park – so we need to make sure we get bodies on bodies, and defend better. It’s great having them again because I thought they were really impressive last week. They’ve not had too many World Cup defections, so they are going to be really tough from the start, so it’s a great opportunity for us to step up from last week.”
Rennie has named 30 players in his squad for this game, with nine changes to the starting fifteen. Huw Jones is in the No13 jersey after missing out on selection to the Scotland World Cup squad. Rennie has suggested that he may be used at full-back in the future but is no rush to go down that route.
“Not at this stage,” he confirmed. “We want to give him a decent crack at 13 because that’s his primary position, but we do have really good depth there, so at times it is just about trying to get our best players on the field and if Huw can be an option at full-back then that’s good to have.
“But we’ve been really impressed with Glenn Bryce, Ruaridh Jackson has done a great job over the last two years and we’ve used Tommy Seymour back there. Plus there’s a young fella called Ollie Smith from the academy who got 40 minutes last week and we think he’s got huge potential.
Matt Fagerson and Grant Stewart were also cut from the World Cup training squad last week, while Kyle Steyn and Nick Grigg have had a bit more time to come to terms with the disappointment after being released back to the club in early August. All four will get game time for Warriors this weekend.
“They’ve all come back in great shape, but we’re a very fit side and we’ve worked equally as hard this summer,” said Rennie. “It has always impressed me about our boys that when they come back from international rugby, they are keen to play for Glasgow and front-up accordingly.
“It is hugely disappointing, of course, because they are desperate to go to the World Cup – but somebody has to miss out.
“I offered to give them a week off, but they’ve come in quickly to get their head around things, and we want to help them to be ready to take that chance to go to Japan if somebody in the squad picks up an injury. We want to help them be confident and playing well so that if Gregor is looking for a replacement, he is looking at those boys.”
Glasgow Warriors (v Ulster at Scotstoun, Saturday, 2.30pm): Glenn Bryce; Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Stafford McDowall, Rory Hughes; Brandon Thomson, Nick Frisby; Oli Kebble, Johnny Matthews, D’arcy Rae, Andrew Davidson, Tim Swinson, Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro©, Adam Ashe. Replacements: Grant Stewart, Charlie Capps, Alex Allan, Adam Nicol, Kiran McDonald, Bruce Flockhart, Callum Gibbins, Matt Fagerson, Jamie Dobie, Sean Kennedy, Gavin Lowe, Nick Grigg, Paddy Kelly, Ratu Tagive, Ruaridh Jackson.
Ulster: Will Addison; Craig Gilroy, Matt Faddes, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle; Billy Burns©, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Kieran Treadwell, Sam Carter, Matty Rea, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney;Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Jack McGrath, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Jordi Murphy, Greg Jones, Dave Shanahan, Bill Johnston, James Hume, Andrew Curtis, Angus Kernohan, Michael Lowry.