DAVE RENNIE has said from the moment he arrived on these shores last August that he will pick his Glasgow Warriors team based on form rather than reputation, and the no-nonsense New Zealander has been as good as his word in the biggest selection call of the season so far, with Sam Johnson and Nick Grigg being named in the centre ahead of frontline Scotland stars Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones for tonight’s winner-takes-all Guinness PRO14 play-off clash against the Scarlets at Scotstoun.
The coach has also opted for George Horne at scrum-half ahead of the more experienced options of Henry Pyrgos and Ali Price. Click here to find out more about that selection.
“It’s about form. In our opinion, Nick and Sam have been our best midfielders throughout the year,” explained Rennie. “Sam is really good with ball in hand, he’s got great feet, he’s a punishing defender and a good communicator. He’s had a great season. Nick is quick and dynamic in attack. He’s a good chop defender.
“There’s not a lot between all these guys. We’re fortunate we’ve got really good depth in midfield, but we felt, based on the opposition, that they’re our best fit. We’ve picked the best team possible based on who we are playing. It’s tough and it’s to the credit of the guys left out that they’ve taken the disappointment well, have worked really hard and helped the other guys prepare.”
Red Tide ebbs and flows
The Scarlets may have come up well short in their Champions Cup semi-final clash against Leinster four weeks ago, but they got right back on the horse with an emphatic 43-8 victory over the Cheetahs in their PRO14 quarter-final clash a fortnight later, and momentum is most definitely on their side when compared to the Warriors, who lost three out of their last four matches during the regular season, and then had three weeks off before this encounter.
The first of those three defeats was a worryingly sluggish performance against the Scarlets in Wales at the start of April, but Rennie is sure that his team won’t be so far off the pace again.
“Attitude is everything. We came up short that day. I thought we played really poorly post-tackle and we knew that would be important as they have so many guys who are good at stealing pill. They did a good job that day in denying us possession, but we were a little bit lacklustre, so everyone has to be on it tomorrow,” he said.
“It’s a no-tomorrow scenario if we don’t get it right. We’ve prepared well, and the attitude has been great. I would expect a far better performance.
“We’ve learnt a lot from the past month. It has given us time to tidy up parts of our game and it’s given us a chance to freshen some of the boys up. They were pretty jaded going in to that final game,” he continued.
“From a training perspective it has been excellent this week. The boys are really sharp, we’ve got full tanks. We’ve had a long time to prepare tactically for what’s going to be required. We feel we are in a good spot.
“The medics and trainers have done a great job around maintaining our players. Earlier in the year when the test footie was going on we had a dozen injured, which meant we were missing 26 in total, so we have gone pretty deep in the squad. We have 51 to pick from going into this weekend so we have more guys missing out than playing.”
A major benefit of having that many players fit and available is that it has allowed the squad to replicate game situations at training during their three-week wait for this game.
“We had a group of guys who have been focusing on Scarlets and delivering what they do in attack and defence,” explained Rennie. “Those boys did a great job. We have been able to get the right amount of physicality and clarity.”
Glasgow Warriors: (v Scarlets at Scotstoun, Friday 7.45pm): S Hogg; T Seymour, N Grigg, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; F Russell, G Horne; J Bhatti, F Brown, Z Fagerson, T Swinson, J Gray, M Fagerson, C Gibbins, R Wilson©. Subs: G Turner, A Allan, S Halanukonuka, R Harley, C Fusaro, H Pyrgos, P Horne, R Jackson.
Scarlets: J McNicholl; T Pyrdie, S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Evans, K Owens©, S Lee, T Beirne, S Cummins, A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay. Subs: R Elias, W Jones, W Kruger, L Rawlins, W Boyde, J Evans, D Jones, S Hughes.