There have been worries about the relative strengths of the Glasgow squad, ever since the season began without any great fanfare or signings save for scrum-half Nick Frisby.
Until now Glasgow have been going well in the league, but the opening weekend of Champions Cup action is always seen as a sterner test. With large chunks of the budget tied up in contracts for Jonny Gray and the injured Stuart Hogg, has Dave Rennie built the depth needed to challenge in Europe?
The team, on the face of it, certainly has some class: Dunbar and Jones in the centre, Fraser Brown at hooker, Jonny Gray at lock, the dog of Gibbins at openside. Unfortunately though, you have to compare it to the monstrous team that Saracens – who knocked Glasgow out on their only previous foray into the knockout stages – are fielding, which has far fewer positions where you’d be saying “oh I wish so-and-so was available” than Glasgow’s.
When you look at one-on-one match ups (as I am sure Kevin Millar is doing in his lab somewhere), Glasgow come off second best in plenty of them; even the form players like Adam Hastings who has been something of a revelation this season – he’ll go up against Owen Farrell.
In days gone past we might have dismissed, say, Richard Wigglesworth’s relatively low amount of England caps or the fact that David Strettle is getting on a bit in order to find some hope for our plucky heroes, but they are key parts of a full-on Saracens team used to winning home or away, with a championship pedigree. In short: blink and they’ll dismantle you.
The lock crisis Glasgow are currently undergoing means Rob Harley gets more game time – no bad thing – while at tighthead D’Arcy Rae gets the honour of trying to shackle Mako Vunipola in the absence of Zander Fagerson. His backup, and Glasgow’s new stop-gap signing is a former Saracens man in the shape of Petrus du Plessis.
Glasgow will defend their home territory of Scotstoun tooth and claw, and perhaps tenacity, along with their comfort at deploying the all-court-counter attack on that pitch could be some light at the end of the tunnel. Saracens will be coming to play test-match rugby though and want to shut them down at any and all opportunities.
Can skill, pace and tenacity upset skill, power and experience?
Only Sunday will tell.
Glasgow Warriors: 15. Ruaridh Jackson, 14. Lee Jones, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. DTH van der Merwe, 10. Adam Hastings, 9. Ali Price; 1. Oli Kebble, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. D’Arcy Rae, 4. Rob Harley, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Ryan Wilson (capt), 7. Callum Gibbins (capt), 8. Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: 16. George Turner, 17. Alex Allan, 18. Petrus du Plessis, 19. Greg Peterson, 20. Chris Fusaro, 21. George Horne, 22. Pete Horne, 23. Rory Hughes.
Not available due to injury: Brian Alainu’uese (back), Scott Cummings (ankle), Zander Fagerson (ankle), Siua Halanukanuka (foot), Stuart Hogg (ankle), Paddy Kelly (calf), Lelia Masaga (hip), Kiran McDonald (hand) and Tim Swinson (lower limb).
Saracens: 15. Alex Goode, 14. David Strettle, 13. Alex Lozowski, 12. Brad Barritt (c), 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Richard Wigglesworth, 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Vincent Koch, 4. Will Skelton, 5. George Kruis, 6. Maro Itoje, 7. Michael Rhodes, 8. Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16. Christopher Tolofua, 17. Richard Barrington, 18. Titi Lamositele, 19. Nick Isiekwe, 20. Jackson Wray, 21. Ben Spencer, 22. Nick Tompkins, 23. Liam Williams,
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
At Scotstoun Stadium, Sunday 14 October, kick-off 3.15pm – live on BT Sport 2.