Tommy Seymour makes swift returns for Glasgow Warriors’ trip to Cardiff

Lee Jones (left) and Tommy Seymour are the Warriors' starting wingers for today's game against Cardiff. Image: © Craig Watson.

TOMMY Seymour is back in the Glasgow Warriors team for the first time this season as Dave Rennie’s team head to Cardiff bidding to make it three wins out of three in the PRO14. The head coach originally planned to have the Scotland winger come off the bench for his first run out since the Lions tour, but injuries to Lelia Masaga and Rory Hughes have accelerated Seymour’s return.

The Warriors’ good start to the season has been particularly impressive given the absence hitherto of such key players as Seymour, Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray, but as tougher challenges approach it will be interesting to see what Rennie comes to regard as his strongest line-up. In the games to date, he has made use of the depth in his squad, and that is evident again in his selection for the trip to Wales, with Henry Pyrgos taking over at scrum-half from Ali Price.

Pyrgos has also taken over as captain from Ryan Wilson, who misses out because of a neck injury and is replaced in the back row by Matt Fagerson, the only change to a pack in which Tim Swinson is set to make his 100th appearance. Nick Grigg starts at centre instead of Peter Horne, who is on the bench alongside his brother George and Niko Matawalu. The Fijian, back at Scotstoun after two seasons in the English Premiership, is in a matchday squad sooner than expected, and is likely to come on at some stage as a replacement for Seymour, whose return is being keenly anticipated, not least by Rennie himself.

He’s a quality player and has a lot of experience,” the coach said of the 29-year-old, whose return sees Lee Jones move over from right wing to left. “He gives a lot of voice in the backs, so we’re excited to have him back in the mix.

“Initially we were going to have him come off the bench, with Lelia Masaga starting, but Leila pulled up yesterday with a bit of tightness in the calf. The idea was to give Tommy 30 minutes to get a taste of things prior to Munster next week, but he now has an opportunity to start, which will be good.

“Obviously, he hasn’t had a lot of footy in the last few weeks, but he has been training and he has really impressed. So I’m looking forward to seeing him out there.”

Matawalu can expect to see action at his original position of scrum-half before too long this season, but at present he is being primarily regarded as a wing. “Niko has been a real handful on the training pitch since coming back,”  Rennie said. “The ideal scenario was that we’d bring him in after a month. We’ve put a lot of time into him and we have a fair few injuries out wide with Lelia and Rory Hughes last week. Leo Sarto is out and Robbie Nairn is still coming back from concussion. Niko gets his opportunity a little bit earlier than we thought, but he’s ready to go.

“Initially we’re looking at him as a winger. We have good resources at nine, and we’re keen to give George Horne a bit of a crack because he was training really well pre-season and was pretty impressive in both trials. We have good depth there.

“But once we get to autumn and the Six Nations we could lose both our half-backs. So Niko could be an option there, but initially we are looking at him as a winger.”

While the likes of Wilson, Hughes and Masaga are expected to be available for next week’s home game against Munster, prop Oli Kebble could be out until the end of the year because of the toe injury he sustained against Ospreys. “We’re waiting for confirmation, but we don’t think it’ll be a quick turnaround,” Rennie explained. “We’ll try and rehab it initially, but if there has to be an operation it’ll probably be 10 to 12 weeks.

“I’m pretty confident Ryan will be back next week. He was pretty close for this game, but we’ve got good depth in that position. As you can imagine, being skipper he’s keen to get out there every week, but common sense prevailed, so we’ll give him a chance to rehab properly.”

Cardiff, who are still without Lions captain Sam Warburton, have made two changes to the team that began their defeat by Leinster, with Nick Williams coming in at No 8 and Willis Halaholo returning at centre. Having also lost to Edinburgh in their opening match, they are in need of a win to kick-start their season, and Rennie, whose new team lost in the Welsh capital last season, is not taking them lightly.  

“You underestimate any team in this competition at your peril,” he added. “We’re well aware that they’ll be desperate, and we’ve got a really long way to go to get our game right, so we’ve worked really hard again this week. We know that Cardiff in Cardiff are a much stronger proposition and they’ve got a reasonably tough string of games coming up, so we know they’ll be desperate and that we’ll need to be able to front up physically.”

Glasgow Warriors (v Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park, Saturday 16, 7.35pm): R Jackson; T Seymour, N Grigg, A Dunbar, L Jones; F Russell, H Pyrgos; J Bhatti, G Turner, Z Fagerson, T Swinson, S Cummings, M Fagerson, C Gibbins, A Ashe. Substitutes: P MacArthur, A Allan, D Rae, B Alainu’uese, C Fusaro, G Horne, P Horne, N Matawalu. 

Cardiff Blues: R Williams; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; R Gill, M Rees, K Assiratti, S Davies, D Welch, J Turnbull, J Navidi, N Williams. Substitutes: K Myhill, B Thyer, D Lewis, G Earle, M Cook, T Williams, J Evans, M Morgan.  

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.