ZANDER Fagerson is now expected to miss most, if not all, of the Six Nations Championship as a result of the ankle injury he got playing for Glasgow against the Cheetahs in South Africa. The Warriors did not initially suggest a precise timescale for the tighthead prop’s absence after he was operated on last week, but at yesterday’s launch of the Heineken Champions Cup in Dublin, Dave Rennie suggested the 22-year-old could be sidelined right through the winter.
“We think he’ll be out for five to six months,” the coach said. “We’re hoping maybe five, or four and a half. It was a clean break and the operation went well, but we’re not going to push him. It’s a big season with a World Cup following.
“Zander has been superb. The scrum has gone well but the quality of his carrying and cleaning and tackling has been great. There is a bit of mongrel about him and we’ll miss that.”
With Simon Berghan and Willem Nel competing for the No 3 jersey at Edinburgh, the loss of Fagerson is not an immediate crisis for Scotland. But, with Siua Halanukonuka also currently sidelined, it is a major problem for the Warriors, who have already begun the search for a temporary replacement.
“Siua has a foot injury and we expect him to be about for six weeks,” Rennie continued. “D’arcy [Rae] started last week and we have young Adam Nicol, but we are a little thin and at a stage where we might have to look at bringing someone in. We’re a little way down the road, but nowhere near putting pen to paper.”
One possibility is re-signing 37-times capped Scotland international Moray Low, who made 150 appearances for the club between 2006 and 2014, before moving to Exeter Chiefs, on a short-term deal. The 33-year-old agreed a one-year contract extension with the Chiefs at the start of the summer but has been deployed mainly with the second string Exeter Braves in recent seasons.
While the lack of an experienced tighthead could be a lasting issue, Rennie appears confident that his squad is better placed to meet the challenge of European rugby than they were last season. “The challenge for teams like us is that if you get a couple of injuries in key positions you can get caught under a bit of pressure. But we’re happy with the squad we’ve got. We’ve worked really hard and we’re in good nick. We’re looking forward to measuring ourselves against Saracens first up.
“Teams got access to us through our scrum at times last season. Big sides try to put you in the corners and try to hurt you in the maul. But we’ve put a lot of time into our defensive maul and we’re mauling better ourselves. Our scrum has been strong, but with Zander injured and Siua being out, tighthead is a concern.
“I think we’ve made some good shifts. Our ability to look after the ball has improved and our accuracy has improved – bar last weekend, but we think that’s a top-two-inches issue more than anything else.”
Warriors co-captain Callum Gibbins, also at the Dublin launch, said the players had met as a group after Saturday’s shock defeat by the Southern Kings to analyse what had gone wrong. “We’ve sat down as a team and talked about where we went wrong and how we want to fix it,” the openside said. “We were pretty embarrassed by that performance. We’ve looked at ourselves and how we approached the week.
“It’s always tough to look at yourself and what you’ve done wrong. But it’s vital and you have to do it if you want to get better. It was a tough Monday doing that review, but then we trained really well after that. You look at what you have to get better at, put that to rest and hopefully come through and push on to the next game.”
The Warriors are at home to the Dragons this Saturday then Zebre next Friday in the PRO14 before turning their attention to Europe. Their first pool fixture in the Champions Cup is against Saracens, also at Scotstoun, on Sunday 14 October.