Warriors could call on non-Scottish World Cup players for Dragons clash

DTH van der Merwe and Niko Matawalu could feature this weekend, says assistant coach John Dalziel

Niko Matawalu could be involved for Glasgow Warriors against the Dragons this weekend. Image: ©Craig Watson
Niko Matawalu could be involved for Glasgow Warriors against the Dragons this weekend. Image: ©Craig Watson

GLASGOW WARRIORS are in no rush to get their Scotland World Cup squad members back in action at club level, but DTH van der Merwe and Niko Matawalu – who represented Canada and Fiji, respectively, in Japan – could feature against the Dragons at Rodney Parade this coming Saturday afternoon.

A number of Warriors players had only very limited game time during the World Cup, including stand-off Adam Hastings, who got six minutes off the bench against Samoa and played all of the Russia match. The stand-off was training with the squad at Scotstoun yesterday, but Dalziel dismissed the idea that he might feature at the weekend.

“It will be staged, so some of them [Scotland squad members] who have played less will start to drip in next week or the week after, while the longer minutes guys will be the third group to come back,” he explained.

“We’ve obviously got the non-Scottish lads back in this week and I think we’ll pretty sensible with them as well,” he added. “They’ve had a long lead-up to the World Cup and guys like DTH have had a lot of minutes, but a decision could be made for him and Niko to come into the frame.”

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While SRU protocols mean that head coach Dave Rennie does not have a free-hand when it comes to selecting Scotland internationalists whenever he wants, Dalziel insisted that there would be no major clamour to call in the Scotland front-liners this weekend even if they were fighting fit and available.

“We’ve got personnel missing – 17 is the most of any team – but we have really backed the youngsters, and they’ve been fantastic,” he said. “For example, Kiran McDonald has had a real opportunity and has been on fire, and Adam Nicol has had an opportunity as well.”

Glasgow lost their first two matches of the 2019-20 PRO14 season, away to the Cheetahs and at home to the Scarlets, but then picked up a solid win over Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun last weekend.

“With everybody back, there is 53 players [in the squad], so it is not that these guys are not good enough, it is that we’ve got a lot of world class players,” Dalziel continued. “For someone like Kiran, who is in a really competitive area [second-row], opportunities were really limited last year, but with Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings away fighting on another front it has been great for him to get more time in the saddle.

Andrew Davidson is in a similar boat, a Glasgow boy coming back from Newcastle, although, unfortunately, he has had couple of head-knocks which has curtailed him a little bit.

“For these guys to get the experience of things like leading the attacking line-out has been great for their development, plus Kiran has been really good on his ball-carrying and his defence has really improved as well.

“The means that when everybody comes back, we will find we have really grown in that area and have the depth we need given that we still have 20 odd games to play in this league season.

“We play a lot of rugby without our international lads. We’re almost straight into European competition now, then after three or four rounds of that we will be beginning to prepare for the Six Nations, so young guys like George Thornton – who we signed in the summer – are already getting minutes on the field, and they will be called upon to do so again.”

Hitting the ground running

Thornton, Nicol, Cummings, Davidson and Hastings, along with other current Warriors squad members the Fagerson brothers (Zander and Matt), Bruce Flockhart, Stafford McDowall and Robbie Nairn, all played under Dalziel during his two seasons as head coach of the Scotland Under-20s team in 2015-16 and 2016-17, which culminated in a highest ever World Championship finish of fifth in the summer of 2017.

Other, slightly older squad members, such as Gray, Adam Ashe, Alex Allan, Darcy Rae, Ali Price, George Horne, Paddy Kelly and Rory Hughes also came into contact with Dalziel during the five years he spent before that as an assistant coach of the side.

Having initially earned his spurs coaching club rugby at Melrose, the former Border Reivers back-rower then moved from the Under-20s programme to have the best part of two years working with the Scotland 7s programme, before being handed the role of forward coach at Warriors when Jonathan Humphreys was given a role in the new Wales coaching set-up which will take over after the World Cup.

“I’m really enjoying it,” said Dalziel, of his first few months in his new job. “It’s a fantastic club with a fantastic group of players, and coaches as well. It is great to be working with Dave and back with a lot of players I’ve had a lot of time with during the age-grade stuff.

“They are completely different sports, but part of the Scottish rugby mantra has been about 7s having close links with 15s, so I’ve kept my head in and been present at both Edinburgh and Glasgow making sure I keep up to speed with stuff on or around the set-piece.

It is clear that Dalziel has developed a deep respect for Rennie and says he is not surprised in the slightest that the Warriors head coach has been linked to the Australia job, but insists that this remains purely speculation as far as he and his Scotstoun colleagues are concerned.

“There is a lot of articles, a lot of speculation and a lot of theories, but Dave is committed to Glasgow until at least the end of the season,” he said. “There is never a thought of that changing, he is a man of real good stature and he’s working harder than ever to make sure Glasgow have a fantastic season this year and beyond.”

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About David Barnes 3908 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.