SAM JOHNSON will play his first competitive rugby since breaking his jaw almost three months ago, alongside Stafford McDowall who is captaining the side for the first time, in Glasgow’s midfield against Perpignan away tomorrow night. A victory in this match will secure a place in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup.
In total, head coach Franco Smith has made 12 personnel changes to the side which started last weekend’s URC’s victory over Stormers,
In the pack, tight-head prop Lucio Sordoni, second-row JP du Preez and No 8 Jack Dempsey are the survivors. Nathan McBeth makes his first start for the club some 15 months after being recruited from South Africa, while Johnny Matthews comes in at hooker. Richie Gray returns to the side after missing last weekend’s win at Scotstoun with a minor infection, while academy prospect Euan Ferrie gets his first professional start at blindside flanker, and Cameron Neild is at blindside.
However, there is no return for Murphy Walker, with Smith explaining that the neck injury which kept him out of last weekend’s clash against the Stormers is going to take longer to heal than initially anticipated, which is bad news for Scotland given that first choice tight-head, Zander Fagerson, is in a race be to recover from a serious hamstring injury in time for the Six Nations, which kicks-off in three weeks’ time with an away match against England on Saturday 4th February.
“Murphy has got a little bit of a bulging disc in his neck,” said the coach. “He can basically do everything as normal, except from scrummaging. So, unfortunately, he’ll be out of any scrummaging work for the next three to four weeks.”
In the backline, Jamie Dobie makes his first appearance since December’s victory away to Bath, partnering Domingo Miotti in the half-backs, while Cole Forbes has recovered from a neck injury to be named on the wing for his first appearance since October’s visit to the Cell C Sharks. Ollie Smith moves from full-back to the other wing slot, while Josh McKay is handed the No 15 jersey.
On the bench, Angus Fraser is included amongst the replacements for what would be just his second appearance for the club, joining Jamie Bhatti and Simon Berghan as the front-row cover. Lewis Bean and Alex Samuel both cover the second-row, while Thomas Gordon returns from a calf injury sustained in October to be the back-row replacement. The bench is completed by scrum-half Sean Kennedy and stand-off Duncan Weir.
“Tomorrow is another important step in our development as a squad,” said Smith “Whilst we’ve been on a strong run of recent form, we know that there are still areas in which we can improve and it’s important for us to take our lessons while we’re winning.
“We’re also pleased to give Stafford the chance to captain this group for the first time. He is a player who has shown his leadership qualities both on and off the field across this season, and is someone to whom I know this honour means a great deal.”
Glasgow Warriors (v Perpignan at Stade Aimé Giral, Saturday 14th January, kick-off 8pm): J McKay: C Forbes S McDowall ©, , S Johnson, O Smith; D Miotti, J Dobie; N McBeth, J Matthews, L Sordoni, J Du Preez, R Gray, E Ferrie, C Neild J Dempsey. Substitutes: A Fraser, J Bhatti, S Berghan, L Bean, A Samuel, T Gordon, S Kennedy, D Weir.
Unavailable for selection: Fraser Brown (head), Gregor Brown (foot), Scott Cummings (foot), Rory Darge (ankle), Zander Fagerson (hamstring), Oli Kebble (shoulder), Sintu Manjezi (knee), Jack Mann (head), Enrique Pieretto (chest), Ross Thompson (ankle), Murphy Walker (neck), Ryan Wilson (knee).