Updated: Exeter v Glasgow: Gregor Hiddleston to make debut in Champions Cup pool clash

Former Scotland Under-20s hooker was man-of-the-match in Stirling Wolves' recent Super Series Championship Final win over Ayrshire Bulls

Gregor Hiddleston in Super Series action for Stirling Wolves against Watsonians. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Gregor Hiddleston in Super Series action for Stirling Wolves against Watsonians. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

GREGOR HIDDLESTON faces a baptism of fire this weekend [Saturday afternoon] when he will make his professional debut for Glasgow Warriors in their Champions Cup pool stage clash against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park. The 21-year-old former Scotland Under-20s hooker most recently featured for Stirling Wolves –  with whom he is on a partnership contract – in their 2023 Super Series Championship success, producing a man-of-the-match performance in the tournament final against Ayrshire Bulls in November.

“He [Hiddleston] would have had his chance earlier but unfortunately got injured in training a couple of months ago when he had been picked to play,” explained Warriors head coach Franco Smith. “He’s been really good in all aspects of the game. He played well in the Super Series and has been really impressive in the last two seasons. He’s been working hard and knocking at the door.

“We have Johnny Matthews and George Turner who I would think will be in the Scotland fray, and we’ve seen Gus Fraser quite a bit who also excites us. But if we do lose both the guys we’re going to need depth in that role so it’s important for Gregor to be blooded. But that’s not the main reason. He’s really shown his capability and I’m excited about his future.”


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Turner is the replacement hooker this weekend, with prolific try-scorer Matthews, who signed a new contract earlier this week, struggling with a minor injury.

“He left the field twice against Edinburgh but it’s not a long-term injury and I didn’t think it was worth putting out on the injury list,” explained Smith. “He has trained this week but we don’t want to risk that injury. He’s had a week off and another week away from injury will do him well. He has an ankle injury and he had to do the last scrum after coming back on against Edinburgh.”

Hiddleston is one of six changes to the starting team for Glasgow’s first match of 2024, as Smith’s side go in search of a first away win in Devon since 2014.

In the pack, Oli Kebble is also added to the front-row at loose-head prop, Alex Samuel – Hiddleston’s former captain at Scotland U20 level – replaces the benched Richie Gray in the second-row, while fit again Matt Fagerson and Henco Venter join in-form Ally Miller in a recast back-row.

Rory Darge is listed as still injured with head coach Smith explaining that his assistant, Nigel Carolan, had got a bit ahead of himself earlier this week when he indicated that the flanker could be in the frame for Scotland’s Six Nations opener on 3rd February.

“It’s good news for us if a six month injury becomes a three month injury,” he said. “It’s still six to eight weeks and maybe, as he progresses with his rehabilitation, we will see him earlier. Scotland will play a fair share in his rehabilitation as it’s definitely in their interests as well.

“The prognosis currently is six to eight weeks and we’re two weeks gone already. So it’s much closer than one thinks.”

In the only change behind the scrum to the side which started the last game against Edinburgh a fortnight ago, Duncan Weir comes in at stand-off, nine years on after coming off the bench in the 2014 victory over Exeter.

“We’re rotating Duncan back in for this one [because] he knows the Premiership, he’s played there before and knows the stadium well,” said Smith. “He’s got his own quality of game that he brings to us. And it also gives us a different feel when you’ve got an experienced 10 like that on the field.

“He’s really worked hard and added some real value in training in the last few weeks when he wasn’t part of the playing group. The versatility of Tom Jordan makes him someone we will always have in the 23. We will have the two games during the Six Nations where Tom will probably play at centre if the ones currently involved in the Scotland set-up are taken. This will give us an opportunity to have Ross and Duncan well prepared to play in those games too.”

Euan Ferrie is in line for his first appearance of the 2023-24 campaign after being selected amongst the replacements, the man from East Kilbride covering the back-row in a six-two split of forwards and backs.

 

Meanwhile, Jack Dempsey could be in the frame to face Toulon next Friday night after recovering from a cracked bone above his eye. “Jack has trained fully this week and he completed his first contact yesterday and today,” explained Smith. “We will see how he progresses next week and he might be available for selection next week.”

“Everyone has come back in well-prepared ahead of this match, and training this week has been competitive with everyone putting their hand up for selection,” the South African added.

“Exeter are a team in excellent form and have started the season strongly – they do not lose many matches at home and we know that there will be an electric atmosphere at Sandy Park tomorrow afternoon.

“We are also excited to see Gregor take to the field for his Glasgow Warriors debut; he is a young player who has worked hard, taken on board feedback from the coaches and his peers, and has earned his opportunity.

“Everyone has come back in well-prepared ahead of this match, and training this week has been competitive with everyone putting their hand up for selection,” he added.

“Exeter are a team in excellent form and have started the season strongly – they do not lose many matches at home and we know that there will be an electric atmosphere at Sandy Park tomorrow afternoon.

“We are also excited to see Gregor take to the field for his Glasgow Warriors debut; he is a young player who has worked hard, taken on board feedback from the coaches and his peers, and has earned his opportunity.”

 

Glasgow Warriors (versus Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park in the Champions Cup  on Saturday at 1pm UK time): J McKay; H Jones, S Tuipulotu ©, S McDowall, K Rowe; D Weir, G Horne; O Kebble, G Hiddleston, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, A Samuel, A Miller, M Fagerson, H Venter. Substitutes: G Turner, J Bhatti, L Sordoni, R Gray, M Williamson, E Ferrie, B Afshar, T Jordan.

Exeter Chiefs: T Wyatt; I Feyi-Waboso, H Slade, R O’Loughlin; B Hammersley, H Skinner;  T Cairns, A Hepburn, J Yandle ©, E Painter, R Tuima, L Pearson, E Roots, J Vermeulen, G Fisilau. Substitutes: D Frost, N Abuladze, J Iosefa-Scott, M Postlethwaite, R Vintcent, S Townsend, J Hawkins, Z Wimbush.

 

Unavailable for selection: Fraser Brown (knee), Gregor Brown (knee), Sebastian Cancelliere (neck), Rory Darge (knee), Jack Dempsey (face), Jamie Dobie (ankle), Sintu Manjezi (foot), Nathan McBeth (shoulder), Enrique Pieretto (knee), JP du Preez (knee), Ollie Smith (knee), Kyle Steyn (ankle), Sione Vailanu (knee), Murphy Walker (knee).


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About David Barnes 3821 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

5 Comments

  1. Well, I did say after the Edinburgh game we should focus on the URC. Not sure that even if we were fully loaded we’d have that much chance away to Exeter. So this seems a fairly logical selection until reinforcements arrive from the medical room.

    Big ask for Hiddleston, especially if Exeter compete in the lineout. Good luck to him. But it is quite exciting to see more of the young guys.

    Still not convinced about Jones on the wing, however. Not sure that selection speaks well for the likes of Cordero and Trotter though.

  2. Agree – not sure that Sandy Park in a European game is where you want to give a young player his first professional match (and as a starter no less). Could be a tough afternoon but fingers crossed my gut is wrong on this one…

  3. Weir o come on guys, he is OK for the last 15 not to start anymore. Since I know nothing of Hiddleston I assume you know what you are doing. However no Mathews and not starting Turner very strange. Glad to see Ventor starting and Fagerson back at 8. It could be a tough afternoon ,since Exeter have been a big surprise in the premiership this year to almost all the pundits and me

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