The Warrior Nation will be boosted by the news that fan favourite scrum-half and crazy-making legend Niko Matawalu has re-signed for Glasgow. The 28-year-old has signed a one-year contract at Scotstoun, with the option for a second year, subject to visa and medical.
Matawalu has returned to Glasgow following two less than successful years in the Aviva Premiership with Bath and Exeter Chiefs. He last played for the Warriors in the club’s 31-13 triumph over Munster in the 2014/15 Guinness PRO12 Final.
As the move was only announced late this week, Matawalu is not part of the 23 to face Connacht in Galway with Henry Pyrgos on the bench and Ali Price starting in a strong – but far from first choice – looking side to kick off the Dave Rennie era proper.
Ruaridh Jackson and Pete Horne answer the “who’s filling in for Hoggy and Finn?” question in the backline while Alex Dunbar is probably the biggest international name in the team making his 100th appearance, partnering Sam Johnson in the centre.
Matawalu and the absent Huw Jones aside, the Warrior Nation will be most eager to see Lelia Masaga in action and Rennie doesn’t disappoint, starting him on the wing. Oli Kebble and Adam Hastings are the further fresh faces on the bench.
In the pack, the front row has an unfamiliar look to it with Jamie Bhatti, Edinburgh refugee George Turner and Zander Fagerson the chosen men. At the back, Adam Ashe continues his run at Number 8 meaning captain Ryan Wilson packs down on the blindside. Matt Fagerson will be eager to get off the bench and show what he can do – a lot of people are expecting a breakthrough season from the young back row.
Talking of breakthrough seasons, with Jonny Gray on the surgery comeback trail, it’s an early chance for lock Scott Cummings to showcase his undoubted quality alongside ever-faithful Tim Swinson.
Connacht have a strong team out and a new coach in Dave Rennie protege Kieran Keane, with Bundee Aki set to qualify for Ireland this season they bring the usual blend of guile at the back and beef up front. They’ll be looking to prove that their championship winning season in 2016 wasn’t a flash in the pan, having struggled last season and going from title winners to 8th.
Connacht: Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Sean O’Brien, Eoin McKeon, Conor McKeon, Craig Ronaldson, Tom Farrell.
Glasgow team: Ruaridh Jackson, Lelia Masaga, Alex Dunbar, Sam Johnson, Lee Jones, Pete Horne, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson (capt), Matt Smith, Adam Ashe.
Replacements: James Malcolm, Oli Kebble, Adam Nicol, Greg Peterson, Matt Fagerson, Henry Pyrgos, Adam Hastings, Leonardo Sarto
Saturday 2nd September, live on BBC Alba: k.o. 7.35pm