DAVE RENNIE has backed the three home-grown players who started this season operating in the BT Premiership to take the step up to full professional level in their stride when they make their competitive Glasgow Warriors debuts against the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With ten players listed as injured and a further 14 away on international duty, the strength in depth of the squad is going to be rigorously tested in this match. On paper, it looks like a pretty competitive outfit although much will depend on how second-row Kiran McDonald (who started the campaign playing for Glasgow Hawks), replacement second-row Hamilton Burr (Stirling County) and replacement scrum-half Kaleem Barretto (Marr) shape up.
All three have been training with the Warriors on more or less a full-time basis this year and Rennie says he is excited about seeing how they cope with their next step up the rugby ladder.
“Kiran is a great athlete. I saw him score a great try from 60 metres one day [playing for Hawks versus Ayr at the start of September]. He is a big man and has been in our environment right through. We thought at this time of year he might be needed and he has worked hard on his physicality and learning his craft so we are excited for him. We hope that he can show those qualities on Sunday,” said Rennie.
“Hamilton has trained with us for a big chunk of the year, he trained with us in pre-season and had a run out against Northampton, and I have watched him play for Stirling. He is not the biggest second-row going around, he is probably more of a six, but he will cover lock for us. He has god intensity, has a big ticker and will get through a lot of hard work so it is exciting for us.”
“Kaleem is similar. He has been in and out of this environment for the last few months and so it will be good to see what he brings.”
There are two other debutants in the squad. Italian international Samuela Vunisa, who signed for the club during the summer, recovered from a knee injury to play club rugby with Marr a fortnight ago and will pull on the Warriors’ number eight jersey; while Tongan international Siua Halanukonuka is in line to make his bow off the bench having arrived from New Zealand following the conclusion of the Mitre 10 Cup.
“Samu is a really skilled number eight, runs really good lines, has good physicality and can go well for us. To have Siua to come off the bench at tighthead is great: he has been here two and a half weeks and is finding his feet, but he is experienced,” said Rennie.
“We are conscious we want to build on what we did before the break,” he continued.
“The Ospreys will be pretty desperate to build on their strong form from Europe where they were close to beating Saracens and Clermont. They had a poor last 40 minutes versus Edinburgh [just before the international window, when they lost 37-10], but they are strong. We beat them in round two, we are conscious they will be a good unit.”
“We knew we would have some away at this point and planned for this. We are happy with the squad and the Warriors jersey means a lot. Some players will get their first games for us and all the time we are creating depth and competition.”
Callum Gibbins will captain the side.
Glasgow Warriors (v the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday 26th November at 1pm): R Jackson; L Masaga, N Grigg, S Johnson, L Sarto; A Hastings, G Horne; A Allan, P MacArthur, D Rae, K McDonald, S Cummings, C Gibbins, M Smith, S Vunisa. Subs: G Turner, R Grant, S Halanukonuka, H Burr, L Wynne, K Barretto, B Thomson, L Jones.
Ospreys: D Evans; H Dirkson, J Thomas, A Beck, J Hassler; S Davies, T Habberfield; P James, S Parry, D Arhip, L Ashley, B Davies, O Cracknell, G Mercer, J King. Subs: S Baldwin, G Thomas, M Fia, R McCusker, W Jones, R Morgan-Williams, J Hook, D Howells.