GLASGOW WARRIORS assistant coach Jonny Bell agrees that Ross Thompson has done enough in the six games he has played so far for the club to ensure that Adam Hastings cannot expect to waltz straight back into the side.
Hastings, who has managed 102 minutes of rugby for the club since mid-October due to a serious shoulder injury followed by a three-match suspension for a red-card against Leinster last month, becomes available again for Sunday’s crucial PRO14 clash against Dragons at Rodney Parade.
“Ross put in a man-of-the-match performance in our win over Ospreys at the weekend and he just looks to the manor born there,” said Bell. “He’s kicking his goals well, especially in difficult conditions the other night, and he’s certainly put his hand up to say he wants that jersey.
“It would be hard to just kick Ross out because he has been playing really well. It’s a big decision but a nice one to have. You want to reward form, but you also have to recognise that you have an international player there who wants to get back and get game time again.
“We’re going to see if we can facilitate both.”
“I’m really pleased for Ross because he has had to sit and wait his time,” Bell added. “There has been no Super6 to play in and not even any A games. It has been really tough for a lot of these guys but Ross has taken his opportunity. It just shows that when you put him in that environment and give him the opportunity he has thrived. That’s great for him.
“It’s going to be competitive [next season] with Duncy [Weir] coming in, but Ross has certainly put his hand up and said: ‘I want this position’. So, it makes it interesting, doesn’t it? And if he keeps performing like he has been it will be a good contest. It’s a long season and we’re going to need both those guys to share the load.”
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Hastings is, of course, moving to Gloucester in the summer so it could be argued that giving Thompson an extended run in the side is in the best interests of the club in the longer run, but the fact Warriors are still in with a chance of qualifying for next year’s Champions Cup is also a consideration.
The qualification criteria is still to be agreed/announced, and finishing fourth in Conference A might be enough, but Glasgow know that third place will guarantee them involvement in the 2021-22 edition of European club rugby’s top tournament.
They are currently fourth with two games left to play, seven points behind third-placed Ospreys who have only one match left. That means they need to maximise points on Sunday and against Benetton at home the following Saturday.
“We are just treating these remaining games in the PRO14 as must win games for us,” said Bell. “It has been an exciting challenge, knowing where we are and what we’ve got to do to try and qualify, the climb up the little mini league that we have had … Every game now is a must win and this weekend is a big one.
“Dragons have been consistent with regards to being able to put out the same team. They are playing well and got close to a very good Ulster side the other night. They beat the Ospreys on the Ospreys’ home patch so they are a good side. We are going to have to be really good this weekend.”
Bell also praised Ollie Smith – another 21-year-old – for his performances since breaking into the side at full-back in recent weeks, despite two yellow-cards for deliberate knock-ons in the last fortnight.
“Those have been just instinctive movements which is tough for a young lad, so he’s had to take that on the chin,” said the coach. “But he’s progressing well and learning lots.
“These young guys have been bringing a lot of energy and putting other players under pressure which is good for the team.”
As for some of the more established players who have been long-term absentees, Bell said he hopes Kyle Steyn and Fraser Brown could be back in a matter of weeks, but had nothing concrete to report on Pete Horne.
“Peter Horne hasn’t played since the Exeter game way back in December, he has been side-lined,” he said. “With Kyle Steyn it is like having a new signing. He is getting close now after his hamstring injury. Fraser Brown and guys like that are starting to get back into the mix again. Those older, experienced guys are going to be crucial to us as we push through this stage of the season. It’s important that we get them back in and up to speed. They want to play rugby, get back training and playing again.”