RATU TAGIVE will make his first Glasgow Warriors appearance of the season against the Dragons at Rodney Parade tonight after recovering from an Achilles injury suffered during the summer. The Australian winger, who is on a partnership contract with BT Premiership side Currie Cheiftains, scored a try against the same opposition on his debut for the pro club last March.
He lines up alongside Scotland squad members Ruaridh Jackson at full-back and Lee Jones on the right wing in an exciting back three, as part of a team which head coach Dave Rennie believes showcases the strength in depth which now exists at the club.
Despite having nine players away representing Scotland this weekend, Rennie believes he has been able to strike an exciting balance between experience and youth for the trip to Newport. Four more Scotland squad members are involved, with Rob Harley captaining the side from the second-row; Nick Grigg wearing the number 13 jersey; while tight-head prop D’Arcy Rae and scrum-half Henry Pyrgos are on the bench.
“We had some of those boys in last Thursday and Friday so as far as preparation goes it has been better than normal,” said Rennie.
“We’re happy with the team that is on the park. It is something we deal with all the time. There has been a lot of injuries and when the internationals are on you are going to miss a few, but we’ve worked hard on creating a bit of depth and a number of the guys playing in this game have played a lot of footie for us.”
“The Dragons aren’t too effected by international defections so they’ll field a pretty strong side, with a few guys returning from injury. We’re certainly wary of that.”
“But as a group, we’ve looked at this as a mini season. We’ve got about four games during the Six Nations so we’ve got clarity around performing well and the opportunities these guys have to put pressure on the international boys when they come back.”
“What we’ve shown this year in starting George Horne in front of some of the international boys, in starting Sam Johnson ahead of Scottish international midfielders, and so on, is that we are prepared to select guys on form regardless of reputation. So, that’s their motivation over the next few weeks, hopefully.”
The Warriors are also boosted by the availability of South African prop Oli Kebble, who will look to make an impact from the bench after a frustrating start to his time in Scotland.
“He’s ready to go. That [selection] is a little bit of reward for Alex Allan, who has gone really well – we’re really happy with how he’s scrummaged and he’s pretty mobile around the field,” said Rennie. “Oli has obviously been out, with a toe injury initially, and he’s battled his way back in – and he’ll put a little bit of pressure on this week.
Meanwhile, hooker Grant Stewart gets another chance to impress. The Glasgow Hawks player was drafted into the Warriors’ European squad as emergency cover at the start of January, and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands when an early injury to George Turner in the team’s final Champions Cup match of the season meant he played 72 minutes in an impressive victory over English champions Exeter Chiefs three weeks ago.
“We’ve gone through a few hookers with Fraser Brown, George Turner and now Pat MacArthur injured, so we don’t have the same sort of experience as we’d normally have. Grant had a couple of cameos in Europe, we were keen to test him at that level, and we’ve got a lot of confidence in both him and James Malcolm,” said Rennie. “James has probably got a little bit more experience so starts this week.”
Glasgow Warriors team to play the Dragons at Rodney Parade at 7.35pm tonight [Friday]: R Jackson; L Jones, N Grigg, B Thomson, R Tagive; A Hastings, G Horne; A Allan, J Malcolm, S Halanukonuka, R Harley ©, G Peterson, M Fagerson, C Fusaro, A Ashe. Substitutes: G Stewart, O Kebble, D Rae, K McDonald, M Smith, H Pyrgos, P Kelly, N Matawalu.
Dragons: H Amos, A Warren, T Morgan, J Dixon, J Rosser, Z Kirchner, D Babos, S Hobbs, L Belcher, L Fairbrother, J Davies, R Landman, A Wainwright, J Benjamin, H Keddie ©. Substitutes: E Shipp, G Ellis, L Brown, H Williams, L Greggains, S Pretorius, G Henson, J Sage.