Benetton Rugby v Glasgow Warriors
Date: Sat 4th January 2020
KO: 13:00 UK
Venue: Stadio Monigo
One player who isn’t listed and won’t be lining up for Glasgow Warriors any time soon is winger Rory Hughes, who is off to Leicester Tigers on loan.
Still here, for now, are both Jonny Gray and Nick Grigg, although it was announced today that Jonny Gray will indeed join Exeter Chiefs next season. Grigg starts in the centre while Gray is rested this weekend.
With the constant charge laid against Jonny Gray that despite being a consistent force in defence and the lineout he’s just too nice, a spell toughening up in the attritional forward tussles of the Premiership could be just what he needs. With Stuart Hogg and potential second-row partner Sam Skinner also at Exeter, it could be a canny move for Gray and Scotland to push him to the next level.
In addition to all the other holes in the squad he’s going to want to plug when he arrives, Danny Wilson will now need a top-quality lock to pair with Scott Cummings in the first XV. Although Leone “Uncle BigNaks” Nakarawa is back at Glasgow until the end of the season (he arrived this week), next season is a different matter and Rob Harley and Tim Swinson are solid if unspectacular choices. Richie Gray or Gloucester’s Alex Craig might be on the shopping list, although in Andrew Davidson there is another under-utilised talent waiting to come through (he gets a run this weekend from the bench, his first since October).
Grigg being courted by Wasps/La Rochelle/Japan could still be marked as “RugbyPass rumours” for now, even if it’s our old mucker Jamie Lyall doing the whispering. He’s been given a start by Dave Rennie for the trip to Italy, with Huw “finally found some form” Jones shunted back to the bench.
Elsewhere, the Horne brothers pair up at halfback so expect that chip kicky move to make an appearance at some point. With Nakarawa not quite ready to play, Niko Matawalu will bring the Fiji Weegie as he faces off against former Glasgow player Leonardo Sarto on the wing.
Whether it is test players being rested ahead of the 6 Nations, or just the new reality that an away trip to Treviso is a difficult fixture for most teams, there are plenty big names absent which will make this a nervous watch for the Warrior Nation.
Benetton Rugby: Jayden Hayward, Leonardo Sarto, Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, Luca Morisi, Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage; Nicola Quaglio, Hame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Irne Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri da Ollegio, Giovanni Pettinelli, Braam Steyn.
Replacements: Engjel Makelara, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, Niccolo Cannone, Eli Snyman, Marco Lazzaroni, Tito Tebaldi, Antonio Rizzi.
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Kyle Steyn, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, Nikola Matawalu, Pete Horne, George Horne, Aki Seiuli, George Turner, Adam Nicol, Rob Harley, Tim Swinson, Bruce Flockhart, Tom Gordon, Ryan Wilson (capt).
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Oli Kebble, Petrus du Plessis, Andrew Davidson, Chris Fusaro, Nick Frisby, Huw Jones, Glenn Bryce.
Referee: Nigel Owens
Not available due to injury: Siua Halanukonuka (calf), Sean Kennedy (shoulder), Kiran McDonald (hip), Robbie Nairn (knee), D’arcy Rae (hand), Brandon Thomson (calf), Tommy Seymour (head) and DTH van der Merwe (knee and wrist).
Edinburgh Rugby v Isuzu Southern Kings
Date: Sat 4th January 2020
Venue: BT Murrayfield
As per usual, Richard Cockerill isn’t mucking about with the higher priority PRO14 and has named a strong side for the visit of the Southern Kings to Murrayfield. Edinburgh will be looking for a try bonus to keep the pressure on Munster, so this naturally has banana skin written all over it but the side selected should have enough nous to do the job.
Even without Hamish Watson, Bill Mata or Jamie Ritchie it is a typically tasty back row unit and stacked with impact from the bench.
A welcome sight with the 6 Nations fast approaching and the likely loss of both Kinghorn and Graham to Scotland is the return of Eroni Sau who looked good in his first few games, while at standoff Jaco van der Walt will make his 50th appearance for Edinburgh.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn, Eroni Sau, James Johnstone, Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (capt), Jamie Bhatti, Mike Willemse, Willem Nel, Lewis Carmichael, Grant Gilchrist, Magnus Bradbury, John Barclay, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Dave Cherry, Pierre Schoeman, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Luke Crosbie, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, Mark Bennett.
Isuzu Southern Kings: Courtney Winnaar, Yaw Penxe, S’bura Sithole, Howard Mnisi, Erich Cronje, John Jackson, Stefan Ungerer, Schalk Ferreira, Jacques du Toit, Petrus Strauss, Jerry Sexton, Aston Fortuin, Ruaan Lerm, Thembelani Bholi, Elrigh Louw.
Replacements: Alandre van Rooyen, Xandre Vos, De-Jay Terblanche, JC Astle, Bobby de Wee, Theo Maree, Bader Pretorius, Andell Loubser.
Referee: Joy Neville
Unavailable: Fraser McKenzie, Chris Dean, Viliame Mata, Jamie Ritchie, Stuart McInally
Updated 3/1 to reflect confirmation of Gray’s deal