URC: Bulls v Glasgow: Murphy Walker returns as one of 11 changes to Warriors line-up

Franco Smith selects all-new pack as Warriors bid to cement top-two place in table

Murphy Walker played 76 minutes in his first Glasgow Warriors start against Edinburgh last Friday night. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Murphy Walker starts at tighthead for Glasgow as they take on the Bulls in Pretoria. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

MURPHY Walker will make his first appearance of the season for Glasgow tomorrow as they take on the Bulls in Pretoria. The 24-year-old Scotland international tighthead, who signed a new contract with the club earlier this week, is one of 11 changes made by Franco Smith from the team that started the 40-9 win at Zebre a fortnight ago.

Walker’s appearances for the Warriors have been restricted by injury over the past couple of seasons, but he did turn out recently for the combined Glasgow/Edinburgh A team against Black Lion.  He takes over from Lucio Sordoni in the No 3 jersey, with Zander Fagerson providing back-up on the bench.

The four players who retain their places from two weeks ago are all in the back division: Josh McKay, captain Kyle Steyn, Stafford McDowall and Sione Tuipulotu. Sebastian Cancelliere takes over from Kyle Rowe on the left wing, while Tom Jordan and George Horne are the half-back combination in place of Ross Thompson and Jamie Dobie.

In the all-new pack, the recently re-signed Grant Stewart takes over at hooker from Gregor Hiddleston, who is out with a calf injury. Gregor Brown and Scott Cummings are the starting pair at lock, both having come off the bench in Parma.

Smith’s team lead the log at present and are already all but certain of a top-four finish in the URC, which would guarantee them a home quarter-final. But the fight for a top-two place – and the right to a home semi-final should they get that far – is still very much in the balance.

The Bulls are fourth at the moment, six points better off than the fifth-placed Stormers, and a win would take them to within touching distance of a top-four finish.

“Training this week has been highly competitive, with everyone focused on producing our best performance tomorrow afternoon,” Smith told the Warriors website. “The Bulls provide one of the sternest tests in the URC; they have one of the strongest home records in the competition at Loftus Versfeld, as well as a blend of physical forwards and dynamic backs.

“We know that we will need to be at our best to compete tomorrow, and everyone is looking forward to the challenge.”

Ten players in addition to Hiddleston are listed as unavailable through injury: Fraser Brown (knee) Facundo Cordero (ribs), Richie Gray (bicep),  Huw Jones (hand) JP du Preez (knee), Alex Samuel (head), Ollie Smith (knee), Logan Trotter (thigh), George Turner (foot) and Sione Vailanu (knee).

Glasgow Warriors (v Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, Saturday 1pm BST): J McKay; K Steyn (captain), S McDowall, S Tuipulotu, S Cancelliere; T Jordan, G Horne; J Bhatti, G Stewart, M Walker, G Brown, S Cummings, M Fagerson, R Darge, J Dempsey. Replacements: J Matthews, N McBeth, Z Fagerson, M Williamson, E Ferrie, H Venter, J Dobie, D Weir. 

Vodacom Bulls: W Le Roux; C Moodie, D Kriel, H Vorster, K-L Arendse; C Smith, E Papier; G Steenkamp, A van der Merwe, W Louw, R Vermaak, R Nortje (co-captain), M van Staden, E Louw (co-captain), C Hanekom. Replacements: J Grobbelaar, S Matanzima, F Klopper, R Ludwig, N Carr, Z Burger, J van der Walt, D Williams.

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

12 Comments

  1. As many have said a very odd selection. The starting front 5 look are not even close to Bulls – any scrums or lineouts and we’ll be in trouble. Clearly he’s saving players and hoping the next 2 games will be wins. I fear the front 5 cavalry will arrive too late to save us. A huge gamble not just with the game but the whole season – I hope it works. The saving grace is that with Leinster in the Champiuons Cup final they are likely to field weakened teams in the URC matches so just maybe they will drop a point or 2.

    • Not all that odd when you look at our injury list – Richie Gray, Du Preez and Samuels in the second row, Turner and Hiddleston in the front row and Vailanu in the back row. Most of them would be in the match day squad if fit.

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  2. a bizarre selection, full noise in the backs and back row but a very inexperienced tight five. injury enforced? one eye on the Lions game? a specific plan? all of the above?

  3. I think this line up is a bit forced by Injury/load management Franco has done this all season and it worked great. Gonna take a huge performance to get a win but Munster managed it so we got a shot too. Worse case scenario a losing bonus point. If we’re going to keep in hunt for top spot.

    Whatever happens this season we are very much headed in the right direction and can see improvement from last season. Potentially building something special with a mix of youth and great veterans in Franko we trust

  4. I think Franco is focussing on the Lions next week. Tnis team will not be expected to win but even 1 pt would be great. A win v Lions after another week acclimatising plus 5 pts v Zebre should get top 2

  5. Got to question why the URC have scheduled a match in Pretoria in May for a 1pm kick off – (29-30 Celsius forecast), bet Leinster are quietly pleased with that.

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  6. I do wonder if Franco smith is taking a bit of a gamble that there will be very few scrums in the first half so he doesn’t expose that front five? Equally not too many line out options apart from Cummings-so not too many thrown ins please. But if its non-stop action how will they cope with the anticipated 29C weather?
    Looks like trying to hold on and bring on the heavy cavalry but likely a bit earlier than usual (ie 40 mins rather than 55)

  7. I’m concerned that Murphy Walker is being asked to start the toughest and most important match of the season so far with no game time behind him. It’s an immense challenge and I hope that the gamble pays off. Would also like to have seen Matthews starting, so that the Weeegies can maximise their advantage in the rolling maul. Scratching my head here, in between crossing my fingers. Would also like to see Dobie coming on as a scrum half replacement instead of being shipped out on the wing yet again.

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  8. That is a pack designed to play fast, fast and very fast. Do they have enough ballast to win ball? I expect a fast start with a wide-wide game plan and then some solid guys coming on up front early 2nd half to defend any lead they have. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, could be a heavy loss

  9. Interesting selection…. Think that 10pts from next three games might be enough to secure top 2? If so, makes sense, as targeting 5pts from the Lions game is probably best route to that position…

    Anyway, c’moan the Warriors as even 1 or 2 points from this game tomorrow would be a massive step to that goal!

    • 11 points in next 3 games would be enough to finish top, no? Providing Leinster don’t catch up 50 points difference.

      I think. Someone put me right, please!

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