GEORGE HORNE will return to action after being sidelined for the last three weeks with a hamstring injury when Glasgow Warriors take on Aviron Bayonnais at the Stade Jean Dauger in the Champions Cup tomorrow [Friday] night.
It is a key clash for Warriors who lost their European opener against Northampton at home last week, with another defeat not necessarily cutting off hope of making the knock-out stages of the top tier Champions Cup, but leaving that target dangling by a thin wire.
Sione Tuipulotu will captain a much changed and fairly inexperienced side (six new forwards and a four new backs in the starting XV) , although there are 10 internationalists in the starting XV, including stand-off Ross Thompson who is making his first start of the season.
George Turner is the only alteration to the front-row, as the Scotland hooker packs down between fellow internationals Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson.
In an all-new second-row, Greg Peterson line up alongside Alex Samuel, who is making his Champions Cup debut for the Warriors.
Similarly, a brand-new back-row trio sees Ally Miller start at No 8, with Gregor Brown and Thomas Gordon selected on the flanks.
Huw Jones rekindles his midfield partnership with Tuipulotu, while Kyle Rowe comes into the back-three in place of Sebastian Cancelliere, with Ollie Smith and Josh McKay retaining their places from last weekend.
Angus Fraser will be another Champions Cup debutant off the bench having been named alongside Nathan McBeth and new dad Oli Kebble as the front-row replacements.
Richie Gray rotates to the bench after starting at Scotstoun last time out, whilst Max Williamson and Ben Afshar retain their places amongst the replacements after impressive cameos last weekend.
Henco Venter wears the number 21 shirt in a six-two split of forwards and backs, with the matchday 23 rounded out by Tom Jordan.
Meanwhile, a squad injury update explained that Jack Dempsey has undergone surgery on a facial injury sustained against Ulster in the BKT United Rugby Championship and has now begun his rehabilitation with the medical team at Scotstoun, with the back-rower expected to be sidelined for the next couple of months.
Murphy Walker also underwent surgery last week, with the prop treated for a knee injury at Ross Hall Hospital; the Scotland international has started his return to play pathway with the medical team at Scotstoun and is also expected to be out for the next couple of months.
Sebastian Cancelliere is undergoing ongoing assessment on a neck injury sustained in last weekend’s defeat to Northampton Saints, while Matt Fagerson, Sintu Manjezi and Lucio Sordoni are also being assessed by the club’s medical team, after sustaining facial, foot and shoulder injuries respectively against Northampton Saints last weekend.
JP du Preez (knee), Fraser Brown (knee), Jamie Dobie (ankle) and Kyle Steyn (ankle) all continue their respective return to play pathways as they recover from long-term injuries.
Enrique Pieretto will miss this weekend’s fixture as he and partner Stefi await the birth of their first child.
Euan Ferrie has begun his reintegration to team training after an ankle injury picked up in the club’s ‘A’ team fixture against Edinburgh last month.
Facundo Cordero has returned to full training after completing his rehabilitation on an ankle injury sustained in pre-season.
Jack Mann has also returned to full training, the former Scotland U20 back-rower having completed his return to play protocols following a head injury.
“Bayonne will provide a strong test for us tomorrow night – they dug deep to earn a draw with Munster last weekend and will want to put on a performance for their supporters in their first-ever home match in the Investec Champions Cup,” said head coach Franco Smith.
“As with all clubs, eight matches in a row leaves its mark on a squad, so it is important to keep the squad fresh while also putting out the team that we believe is best placed to challenge the opposition we face each week.
“We have spoken all season about this club being on a journey to become a great squad, and we have always known that squad depth will be important across both the URC and in Europe – we are excited to see everyone contribute tomorrow night.”
Glasgow Warriors (versus Aviron Bayonnais at Stade Jean Dauger in the European Champions Cup on Friday at 8pm UK time): J McKay; K Rowe, H Jones, S Tuipulotu©, O Smith; R Thompson, G Horne; J Bhatti, G Turner, Z Fagerson, G Peterson, A Samuel, G Brown, T Gordon, A Miller. Substitutes: A Fraser, N McBeth, O Kebble, R Gray, M Williamson, H Venter, B Afshar, T Jordan..
Unavailable for selection: Fraser Brown (knee), Sebastian Cancelliere (neck), Jack Dempsey (face), Jamie Dobie (ankle), Matt Fagerson (face), Euan Ferrie (ankle) Sintu Manjezi (foot), JP du Preez (knee), Lucio Sordoni (shoulder), Kyle Steyn (ankle), Murphy Walker (knee).
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