Date: Sat 27th April 2019
Venue: Scotstoun Stadium
Dave Rennie has had a busy week with announcements of new contracts for Rory Hughes, Robbie Nairn, Lee Jones, Bruce Flockhart and Tom Gordon in recent days. Gordon, the Kiwi-born back row who represented Scotland U20 at Age Grade level comes straight into the starting lineup as part of an untested back-row combination for Glasgow, but the Warriors are otherwise at nearly full strength for this crunch game that could clinch a home semi-final.
Calum Gibbins is not yet fit to play but instigator-in-chief Ryan Wilson will return just in time for the knockout stages, having been out since February.
Glasgow also announced today the list of players set to leave the club at the end of the season, with no surprises really:
Glasgow Warriors Leavers 2018/19
Brian Alainu’uese – 22 Glasgow Warriors appearances
Jamie Bhatti – 44 Glasgow Warriors appearances
Kevin Bryce –25 Glasgow Warriors appearances, 1 try
Alex Dunbar – 119 Glasgow Warriors appearances, 15 tries
Stuart Hogg – 118 Glasgow Warriors appearances, 220 points, 30 tries
James Malcolm – 25 Glasgow Warriors appearances, 3 tries
Lelia Masaga – 8 Glasgow Warriors appearances, 1 try
Greg Peterson – 31 Glasgow Warriors appearances, 3 tries
Robbie Smith – 1 Glasgow Warriors appearance
Lewis Wynne – 18 Glasgow Warriors appearances
Hoggy will naturally be a big miss, but as with the departure of Finn Russell last season the salary should free up cash to spend elsewhere (although the ageing Aaron Cruden might not be the best use of it) and a spot to bring some new talent through.
With the contract business out of the way (Edinburgh are still to announce their not-very-secret scrum-half signing and Glasgow fans live in hope of a big name or two), attention turns to the final round of the regular season and the third (non-decisive) round of the 1872 Cup.
Edinburgh come to Scotstoun – the capacity has been increased to 10,000 for this game – with their playoff hopes now dangling by a Zebre-coloured thread. The permutations were discussed on the most recent podcast but safe to say both sides want the win badly. Edinburgh need several large favours to kick in even if they do win, as well as a try bonus.
Hamish Watson will win his 100th Edinburgh cap in a side that also sees the restoration of the Dean/Johnstone centre partnership that has served the club well this season despite both Matt Scott and Mark Bennett now being fit to play. Simon Hickey and Dougie Fife are changes forced by injury while in the pack John Barclay and Magnus Bradbury continue to rotate as the only changes to a settled forward unit.
If it came down to a question of the greater good: a home semi-final for Glasgow with the final to follow at Celtic Park is the result more likely to reap benefits for the game in Scotland as a whole.
The optimum result would be both sides progressing to the knockout stages but that looks increasingly unlikely. Edinburgh have not scored a try bonus against Glasgow since 2008.
There is also the small matter of the Rugby World Cup next year, with both sets of players looking to impress Gregor Townsend and stake their place in the squad.
There are some tasty looking matchups to that end, beginning with the captains and hookers who really just need to emerge unscathed as they’ll both be bound for Japan, as will both the prince and the king of Hawick who line up at fullback.
There’s also a distinct possibility that Ryan Wilson and Magnus Bradbury – both on their respective benches – might end up competing for the same slot in the squad, especially if Jamie Ritchie recovers from his injury. Speaking of which – Scottish qualified Blade Thomson will play his first game for Scarlets since November, and could yet play a part in the Summer Tests.
Let’s hope for a good match.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, Niko Matawalu, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown (capt), Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Tom Gordon, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Alex Allan, D’Arcy Rae, Tevita Tameilau, Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Pete Horne, Rory Hughes.
Unavailable players: Adam Ashe (head), Bruce Flockhart (shoulder), Chris Fusaro (hamstring), Callum Gibbins (head), Nick Grigg (ankle), Siua Halanukonuka (shoulder), Lee Jones (knee), Oli Kebble (back), Tim Swinson (ankle) George Turner (head) and DTH van der Merwe (shoulder).
Edinburgh Rugby: Darcy Graham, Dougie Fife, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Duhan Van Der Merwe, Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally (capt), WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Bill Mata.
Replacements: Ross Ford, Rory Sutherland, Simon Berghan, Callum Hunter-Hill, Magnus Bradbury, Charlie Shiel, Jason Baggott, Mark Bennett.
Unavailable players: Allan Dell; Cameron Fenton; David Cherry; Lewis Carmichael; Jamie Ritchie; Jaco van der Walt; Damien Hoyland; Blair Kinghorn