CALLUM Gibbins is back in the Glasgow Warriors line-up for their opening Champions Cup game against Sale Sharks tomorrow (Saturday), taking the place of Chris Fusaro in the back row as one of three changes from the team which won in the league at Zebre last week. Nick Grigg returns at centre instead of Kyle Steyn, and Rob Harley is in the second row in place of Tim Swinson.
A week after starting for the Warriors for the first time in 20 months, Ratu Tagive holds on to his place on the right wing for what will be his first start for the team in Europe. Tommy Seymour is at full-back and DTH van der Merwe is on the left wing in a strong back three.
On the bench, Ali Price is included for the first time since being injured at the World Cup, while Pete Horne also returns from injury. Huw Jones is one of five players to drop out of the 23 after being involved last week.
Five players are listed as still unavailable due to injury: Siua Halanukonuka (calf), Lee Jones (calf), Sean Kennedy (foot), Grant Stewart (back) and Jale Vakaloloma (shoulder). Jonny Gray is continuing his post-World-Cup rest and is expected to return to action after next week’s second round of pool games, when Glasgow visit Exeter Chiefs.
“The Heineken Champions Cup is a fantastic competition, a chance to test ourselves against the best teams across Europe,” Glasgow coach Dave Rennie said. “We’re excited by that challenge and have prepared well.
“Sale are a tough side based around a big pack, solid kicking game and strong defence. We know what to expect. They’ll be coming through the front door.”
Sale coach Steve Diamond insisted last week that none of his quartet of players who had competed in the World Cup final would be used in this game, and he has been true to his word. Lood de Jager was out anyway because of the injury he sustained in South Africa’s win over England, and his Springboks team-mate Faf de Klerk is due to be rested along with England forwards Tom Curry and Mark Wilson.
Diamond’s squad includes Scotland winger Byron McGuigan on the left wing, Cameron Redpath at centre, and Curry’s brother Ben at openside. Chris Ashton, the all-time leading try-scorer in European rugby, is on the bench.
The other Pool Two game also takes place tomorrow, with La Rochelle playing at home to Exeter, for whom Stuart Hogg starts at full-back. Mike Adamson referees as part of an all-Scottish team of officials: his assistants are Sam Grove-White and Dave Sutherland, while the TMO is Neil Paterson.
Glasgow Warriors (v Sale Sharks at Scotstoun, Saturday, 1pm): Tommy Seymour; Ratu Tagive, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, George Horne; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Rob Harley, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, Callum Gibbins (captain), Matt Fagerson. Subs: George Turner, Alex Allan, D’Arcy Rae, Tim Swinson, Chris Fusaro, Ali Price, Pete Horne, Kyle Steyn.
Sale Sharks: Simon Hammersley; Marland Yarde, Cameron Redpath, Luke James, Byron McGuigan; A MacGinty, Embrose Papier; Ross Harrison, Rob Webber, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Bryn Evans (captain), James Phillips, Jean-Luc du Preez, Ben Curry, Dan du Preez. Subs: Akker van der Merwe, Valery Morozov, Coenie Oosthuizen, Matthew Postlewhaite, Jono Ross, Will Cliff, Robert du Preez, Chris Ashton.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France).