CALLUM Gibbins will make his much-anticipated return to action for Glasgow in the PRO14 semi-final against Ulster tomorrow night, while his Warriors co-captain Ryan Wilson is on the bench along with Huw Jones.
As expected, DTH van der Merwe is on the left wing in place of the injured Niko Matawalu – the only change from the back division that began the team’s last outing, the 34-10 win over Edinburgh at the end of April. There are three personnel changes in all from the team that began that 1872 Cup game, with Gibbins replacing Tom Gordon at openside and Jonny Gray returning at lock after missing out on the Edinburgh match because of illness. Rob Harley, who was in the second row then, moves to blindside in place of Wilson, and Gordon, man of the match in the derby, is also among the substitutes.
Eight players are listed as unavailable because of injury: Bruce Flockhart (shoulder), Chris Fusaro (hamstring), Siua Halanukonuka (shoulder), Matawalu (knee), Robbie Nairn (thigh), Matt Smith (shoulder), Tim Swinson (ankle) and George Turner (head).
“We’re in a much better place than we were 12 months ago and have trained with a real edge during this three-week break,” head coach Dave Rennie said. “DTH is back earlier than we expected, which is a big boost. His power as well as his experience of knock-out rugby will be invaluable tomorrow night.
“We know Ulster will be a completely different animal to the side we faced here last month and we’re going to have to play better than we did that day to get the result. We’re all determined to be a part of a Glasgow final and know we’re going to have to play our best rugby of the season to get there.”
The team that Ulster coach Dan McFarland has picked for this game bears little practical resemblance to the one that lost 30-7 in Glasgow at the start of last month. Captain Rory Best and lock Iain Henderson are back in the pack, and the squad as a whole is in excellent shape.
Glasgow Warriors (v Ulster at Scotstoun, Friday 7.35pm, live on Premier Sports): S Hogg; T Seymour, K Steyn, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, A Price; J Bhatti, F Brown, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, J Gray, R Harley, C Gibbins (capt), M Fagerson. Substitutes: G Stewart, O Kebble, D Rae, R Wilson, T Gordon, G Horne, P Horne, H Jones.
Ulster: J Stockdale; R Baloucoune, L Marshall, S McCloskey, L Ludik; W Burns, J Cooney; O’Sullivan, R Best (capt), R Kane, I Henderson, K Treadwell, N Timoney, J Murphy, M Coetzee. Substitutes: R Herring, A Warwick, T O’Toole, A O’Connor, S Reidy, D Shanahan, M Lowry, D Cave.
Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).
Assistant referees: A Brace (Ireland), G Clancy (Ireland).
TMO: O Hodges (Ireland).