Gregor Townsend went for the familiar with his first team of the season proper, in a clear announcement to young talents and new signings that seems to say “these are the guys, and if you want the shirt you’ll have to earn it.” Which is the right sort of sentiment, let’s be honest.
So last season’s young and exciting back row of Harley, Fusaro and Wilson – that has seen off the Killer Bs and Richie Vernon with only John Barclay left at the club – starts. Duncan Weir keeps the 10 shirt that was his most of last season, alongside the ever-improving Henry Pyrgos. Toony told the Scotsman: “It’s Duncan’s jersey until it’s someone else’s. I was really pleased with Duncan last week and he’s looking fit.” Perhaps he has different ideas on who should play where than either his predecessor or his former boss Andy Robinson?
With Stuart Hogg out recovering from ankle surgery, Peter Murchie fills in at fullback, although there may be scope for Peter Horne to have a shot there at some point over the coming weeks, in his old age-grade position. Dunbar and Morrison play in the centre, but perhaps 2 bashing centres may only be a short term plan until everyone comes online in terms of form and fitness – McGuigan, Horne or Nathan are all possible fits there.
As we came to expect from Glasgow, there’s a strong looking bench stacked with internationals. Arguably Glasgow had a good level of strength in depth already last year and the new signings are only going to add to it when they work their way in. The only area a little worrying was second row, but new man, the highly fancied Tim Swinson, is recovering from a facial injury, and since last season Tom Ryder has a cap to his name. They will be hoping big Richie Gray is not missed too much.
The only one of the new guard to get a starting place is Sean Lamont, who could hardly be described as unfamiliar either to Townsend or Glasgow. Of last season’s big miss, DTH Van Der Merwe, there is no sign, and All-Black Angus Macdonald is rested after picking up a late knock in training.
If this Glasgow team can get a flyer against an Ulster side shorn of many of their big guns – including Ruan Pienaar, currently on Rugby Championship duty – the new signings could find things hard going indeed, at least until November.
Glasgow team: Peter Murchie, Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Graeme Morrison, Sean Lamont, Duncan Weir, Henry Pyrgos; Gordon Reid, Finlay Gillies, Mike Cusack, Tom Ryder, Al Kellock (Captain), Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Ryan Wilson
Replacements: Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Ryan Grant, James Eddie, John Barclay, Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson, Peter Horne