TWELVE members of the Glasgow squad will miss out on Saturday’s pre-season friendly against Zebre because of injury, the club have announced. With another 16 currently absent on Rugby World Cup duty, selection options have narrowed both for that home game against the Italians and the match against Ulster in Cavan the following Saturday.
Nonetheless, Warriors assistant coach Nigel Carolan insisted that overall the squad is in a good place, and expressed confidence in the group of relatively inexperienced players who are likely to be needed for the Zebre match. “We’re happy to play some young guys,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed this year with a lot of the academy guys, the guys who have been playing on the Futures team [in the Super Series].
“They have taken seamlessly to our systems both in attack and defence, and they’re really adding value in training. So right now, if there was a group of those guys getting out onto the pitch on Saturday night, I’d be really excited to see how they transfer that into a game.
“The lads came back from their extended break in fantastic physical condition, and really rested mentally and emotionally at the end of a season which was on the whole a reasonable success. Inevitably when you start to ramp things up there’s going to be a couple of injuries here and there, but overall the squad’s in a great state. We’re ready to play now.”
Of the 12 players named yesterday, only hooker Fraser Brown and lock JP du Preez are longer-term concerns. The others who will miss the Zebre match and in some cases next week’s away game against Ulster are: forwards Allan Dell, Thomas Gordon, Oli Kebble, Sintu Manjezi, Enrique Pieretto and Murphy Walker, and backs Sean Kennedy, Stafford McDowall, Josh McKay and Logan Trotter.
With Richie Gray and Scott Cummings away with Scotland and both Du Preez and Manjezi out of action, the second row is the main concern for the coaches. However, Scotland Under-20 internationals Alex Samuel and Max Williamson are more than ready to take over, according to Carolan.
“Does it leave us light? A little bit for now,” he admitted.
“But Alex and Max have been tremendous – Alex is calling lineouts and has matured as a rugby player, while Max got good exposure with Doncaster last season and is a lot more battle-hardened coming into us this year. And we’ll get some short-term cover there if we need it.”
By their own admission, the Warriors were undercooked at the start of last season after the postponement of a friendly against Ulster meant that a game against the Ayrshire Bulls in Inverness was their only outing before the start of the URC campaign. This time round, Carolan is sure that the two forthcoming friendlies will ensure the team are ready for the opening league fixture against Leinster at Scotstoun on Sunday 22 October.
“When you’ve got up to 20 players unavailable with the World Cup, and then the injury list as well, we could leave ourselves a little bit thin if we had a third game,” he reasoned. “We’re ready to play this weekend and we need a game to see where we’re at, and then another game just to fine-tune against Ulster. We feel that’s adequate prep.”
On Monday night Edinburgh named seven players who will miss out on both of their pre-season friendlies – at home to Connacht on Friday then against Bath a week later – because of injury. Forwards Luan de Bruin, Dave Cherry, Ben Muncaster and Marshall Sykes are all sidelined along with backs James Lang, Harry Paterson and Tim Swiel.