FINN Russell is back in the Glasgow Warriors starting line-up for tomorrow’s 1872 Cup rematch against Edinburgh, one of five changes made by head coach Dave Rennie from the team that went down to a shock 18-17 defeat last week.
Niko Matawalu is on the wing instead of Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg is in at centre for Huw Jones, Kiran McDonald replaces Scott Cummings at lock, and Matt Fagerson starts at No 8 in place of Samuela Vunisa. Russell’s return means Pete Horne drops to the bench alongside younger brother George, while American lock Greg Peterson is also among the substitutes.
“It was a substandard performance last Saturday and we were hugely disappointed,” Rennie said of the match at Murrayfield, in which his team were a man up for 75 minutes after the sending-off of Simon Berghan for stamping on Fraser Brown. “We had so many opportunities to put them out of it and we didn’t and they hurt us at the end.
“We know we have a lot of genuine support out there and we’re disappointed we put in a performance like that over Christmas. We need to be better on Saturday and we certainly want to give the supporters a lot more to sing about than we did last week.”
Richard Cockerill, meanwhile, has made four changes to his Edinburgh team, two enforced and two voluntary. In the front row, Murray McCallum and Matt Shields replace the injured Rory Sutherland and the suspended Simon Berghan, while Jamie Ritchie starts in the back row instead of Cornell du Preez and Damien Hoyland is on the wing in place of Dougie Fife.
The promotion of blindside flanker Ritchie to the starting line-up means a move for Bill Mata from No 6 to No 8, while openside Hamish Watson will hope to last longer than he did last week, when he had to be sacrificed after Berghan’s early sending off to allow Shields to come on as a replacement. On the bench, new signing Jordan Lay is the back-up loosehead, while tighthead Elliot Millar-Mills, who joined last month from Yorkshire Carnegie, is also in line to make his debut.
Berghan’s six-week ban, handed out by a PRO14 disciplinary hearing committee on Thursday, will ensure that the new men get more opportunities in the weeks to come. The starting point for his red-card offence was 12 weeks, but that was halved because of several mitigating factors. “The committee took into account the good record of the player, his apology to the victim player, the fact that no serious injury had occurred and the manner in which he and his club met the case,” a statement from PRO14 explained.
“The committee thus applied the maximum mitigation of 50 per cent (six weeks). As a result, the player has been banned for a period of six weeks. He is free to play from midnight on Sunday, February 4, 2018.” Scotland’s first game in the Six Nations Championship is in Cardiff the previous day, so Berghan’s earliest possible chance to add to his five caps will come the following week at home to France.
Glasgow Warriors (v Edinburgh at Scotstoun, Saturday, 3.15pm): R Jackson; L Jones, N Grigg, A Dunbar, N Matawalu; F Russell, A Price; J Bhatti, F Brown, Z Fagerson, K McDonald, J Gray, R Harley, M Smith, M Fagerson. Substitutes: P MacArthur, O Kebble, S Halanukonuka, G Peterson C Fusaro, G Horne, P Horne, H Jones.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, J Johnstone, P Burleigh, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt; S Hidalgo-Clyne; M McCallum, S McInally, M Shields, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: N Cochrane, J Lay, E Millar-Mills, F McKenzie, C du Preez, N Fowles, C Dean, D Graham.