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PRO14 Round 1 – Connacht vs Glasgow Preview

Connacht v Glasgow
© Scottish Rugby Blog

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

22 Responses

  1. It’s great to see Nico back at Warriors, although I can feel my blood pressure rising already.

      1. Nakarawa: If we don’t, who will. I would hate him to appear for a rival club.

        On the new pitch at Scotstoun The Fiji Weegies could be harmonious. Cannot see Dave Rennie wanting to go back to the future.

    1. He’s a very handy addition to the squad once he gets back into pristine shape. Not just a 9, covers back three too. Oh for Leone to follow!

      I really expect Rennie to have Glasgow continuing to serve up exciting, winning rugby.

  2. really looking forward to seeing what Oli Kebble can do this season, he looked a beast at times in super rugby. Front row of Kebble-brown-fagerson bodes well for the season ahead and for Scotland in the future possibly? Incidently, was the former signed in time for 3 year residency ruling or does he fall under 5 year category?

    1. I believe he has signed a 2 year contract although I could be wrong. Not sure if he has to do the 3 or 5 years to qualify or not?

  3. After a good win by Edinburgh in Cardiff, nothing but a win will do in Connacht.
    Connacht have a full team out and Aki will need to be policed.
    Interesting to see Rennie’s tactics in this one.

    1. Glasgow have looked like they mean business in pre-season and have to put away teams like Connacht with a minimum of fuss. Munster should be only real rivals in this conference given size and strength of Glasgow’s squad this year.

      1. Having seen optimistic signs last night of the impact Edinburgh’s new coach has had on the team, I’m really looking forward to seeing how Rennie’s Glasgow go tonight. He took over a stronger outfit than Edinburgh’s, so we could see something special from Glasgow this season. Hoping so, anyway.

      2. Yeah I’d agree that it’ll be Glasgow or Munster to finish top of Conference A. I only saw bits but the Cheetahs disappointed me last night and thought they would push Ulster a bit closer.

        I expect Glasgow to play similarly to the last few years, but maybe with a bit of Kiwi pragmatism.

  4. Ex-Warrior Maitland scored a hat-trick against Saints earlier, looked good on defence, showed some nice footwork and wound up Harry Mallinder several times. Good work!

    1. A fine assist from not ex-warrior Duncan Taylor in the same game too. Long may they all stay fit.

  5. Good win, but will someone explain why Pyrgos keeps trying to throw the game at the end. There’s no calm head there, and much better to get George Horne on the bench if Henry isn’t going to stabilise the ship.

    1. Completely agree. This is becoming a recurring theme with him at both club and international level. Hope horne gets a lot of game time this year, he offers much more than pyrgos in an attacking sense and therefore if the “experience” factor from Henry isn’t offering anything then in reality, he isn’t offering much to the side at all.

  6. Thinking ahead to the AI’s I think we could see a team like this out against Samoa:

    1- Dell, 2- Ford, 3- Nel, 4- Toolis, 5- Cummings, 6- Bradbury , 7- Barclay, 8- Ashe, 9- Price, 10- Russell, 11- Visser , 12- Dunbar, 13- Grigg, 14- Hoyland , 15- Maitland

    16- Turner, 17- Reid, 18- Z Fagerson, 19- Swinson, 20- M Fagerson, 21- Hidalgo-Clyne, 22- P Horne, 23- Taylor

    1. Not bad but I’d like to see Hastings on the bench to cover fly half. I also think we have enough riches at centre between Dunbar, Taylor, Scott, Bennett, Jones and Horne with the likes of McDowell coming through that Grigg isn’t worth giving a chance as I don’t think he’ll ever be a realistic choice unless we’re truely wracked with injury. He’s a good player but we don’t need a 7th choice centre.

      Would also like to see us increase our front row options. Nel, Fagerson, Ford, Brown, Reid, Dell and Sutherland and Dickinson when not injured are all genuine options but think we could do with looking at Rae and Bhatti to breed some depth. Same with Turner or Malcolm at hooker.

  7. McInally & Ford will cover hooker, can’t underestimate Samoa.

    Agree with Scrummo re Grigg.

    Like to see Rae given a go, seems a very good prop.

    John Hardie, (when fit) should always be in the match day 23

    Again agree with Scrummo re Hastings, why the SRU didn’t let Edinburgh have him I’ll never know.

    I still like Du Preez but he has to show form from the season before last before

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