Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Where are Warriors, Where are Warriors?

Adam Hastings
Adam Hastings on the run supported by Sam Johnson and Niko Matawalu - pic © Al Ross

Looking at the Glasgow Warriors squad on their official website, you wonder if the webmasters have deliberately not removed the latest batch of departures so that you could still draw up a theoretical match day 23.

Tim Swinson, Ruairidh Jackson and record-holding try-scorer DTH van der Merwe have called time on their playing careers. Swinson is studying law and will likely continue with his role as a players’ union representative, DTH has often spoke of his admiration for the fire service, while Jackson has his artisanal gin company and Bond-villain-moustache twiddling to look forward to. We wish them well in their future endeavours.

Jonny Gray’s move to Exeter has been completed, and Andrew Davidson’s move along the M8 to join Edinburgh leaves Glasgow with only Scott Cummings, Kiran McDonald, and the returning Richie Gray as recognised locks, with the latter two so familiar to the treatment table that they’ve been offered a rewards card. Davidson will be fighting for a place in the Edinburgh boiler-room along with Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Lewis Carmichael and Calum Hunter-Hill.

Rob Harley can fill in at lock, but that leaves another jersey to be filled in the back-row. As had been assumed, co-captain and fan favourite Callum “Cully” Gibbins has followed his coaching compatriots out the door, and Matt Smith has been released.

When Smith’s departure was announced, Dave Rennie stated that he played in a position where the Warriors had “considerable depth”, but with Gibbins announcing his departure soon afterwards, it leaves only Tom Gordon and Chris Fusaro who count openside as their first-choice position.

Perhaps this could facilitate a return to the back-row for Fraser Brown or George Turner, because if it’s hookers you’re after, Glasgow have them by a comparative bucketful.

Along with Brown and Turner, there’s Grant Stewart, Fijian international Mesu Delokoto and Johnny Matthews, so assuming that Brown and/or Turner are away on international duty, that’s one gap that can be filled with relative ease.

The other front-row positions are reasonably well-stacked. On the loosehead side, there’s the all-action Aki Seiuli and soon to be Scottish-qualified Oli Kebble battling it out for the #1 jersey, with Alex Allan, Charlie Capps and George Thornton providing back-up. Gordon Reid – everyone’s favourite Irn-Bru slurping superhero – can also be called upon from Ayrshire Bulls if the occasion so warrants.

One piece of confirmed transfer business is over on the other side of the scrum, where Argentine tight-head Enrique Pieretto will make the long drive up from Exeter to keep the ever-improving Zander Fagerson on his toes. Pieretto replaces Siua “The Nuke” Halanokonuka, who has been released from his contract one year early after an injury blighted spell at the club. D’Arcy Rae and Adam Nicol provide back-up, but what may be of concern is that during a player shortage in February, Dave Rennie started Kebble at tighthead rather than Nicol. Ewen McQuillin and Gaston Cortes were signed on short term deals, but those were shortened further still by the coronavirus outbreak, and no news has yet reached us of their longer-term futures.

There are no issues at scrum-half, where Ali Price and George “Horneito” Horne – recent winner of the club’s Player of the Season award for the second time in three seasons – battle it out for the jersey at both club and international level.  Young Player of the Season Jamie Dobie is now confirmed as their first-choice back-up (if that isn’t a paradox) following the departure of Nick Frisby.

The only problem with the centres is picking a first-choice combo. When fit, Sam Johnson would be most right-minded people’s option at 12, with one of Nick Grigg, Huw Jones and Kyle Steyn outside. Steyn can also play winger, but another issue surfaces therein.   

Glasgow’s outside back options are dwindling. As well as DTH and Jackson having retired, Rory Hughes has left the club. Tommy Seymour, Niko Matawalu and Lee Jones are all over 30 years of age. Ratu Tagive has only made 11 appearances in over three years at the club, and for all his athletic prowess, Robbie Nairn hasn’t really kicked on as had been hoped.

At a fan event towards the end of 2019, Dave Rennie had stated that when looking to replace Stuart Hogg, they had failed to find anyone within budget who was better than the options they already had. The answer? Bring back Glenn Bryce, a player deemed surplus to requirements at Glasgow three years earlier.

Richie Gray’s return is part of a wider recurring theme of former Warriors coming back to see out their careers, which begs the question: who’s in charge of recruitment these days?  

It was a question we were hoping to ask during a conference call with SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson on Thursday 11th June, however there was no room at the inn for us.  

Scott Johnson, for all his perceived flaws, had a powerful little black book of southern hemisphere connections which brought Vern Cotter, Dave Rennie, Leone Nakarawa and Villiame Mata, to name but a few, to Scottish shores.

Even discounting the importance of some of the players that have left over the years, there was no like-for-like replacement of Hogg or Russell, Glasgow have simply carried on with what they have. Hastings for Russell has worked, but Brandon Thomson and Pete Horne are then a significant drop-off in quality when Hastings is on international duty. Horne Sr. could even still find himself alongside Hastings on the international scene in his more natural position of inside-centre.

The pandemic has of course affected proceedings, but this unbalanced squad is not borne of a three-month delay.  The rumour mill may not spin briskly in Glasgow – more often than not business is dealt with quickly and quietly – but fans can only hope that behind the scenes the sails are going like the clappers so that Danny Wilson doesn’t inherit a stagnating squad.

33 Responses

  1. Difficult reading but there is a very concerning radio silence from Scotstoun. Warriors struggled in 19/20 due to RWC absences and the need for recruitment was evident for all to see.

  2. Is Hunter hill definitely going back to Edinburgh? There must be a 2nd row signing in the works for Glasgow as it seems odd situation.

    The lack of big name signs does give the opportunity hopefully for some young Scottish players to step up. Hopefully they can be the next Russel, hogg etc

  3. Picking Teams – Where is Neil, is he still on a ban !! Surely not . I am sure I have heard him quoting the merits of Alex Craig of Gloucester who has a scottish granny and who knows what the future holds for Maitland at Sarries. I would like to see more of him at Fullback. It feels like time when we should be seeing academy players coming through. All sides go through a time of change, shame this is Glasgow’s.

    Huw Jones is a player for big games , I do feel he needs to find a compatible club and I don’t mean Exeter. Alongside Cipriani at Gloucester, this guy would really come back to form, come on Cockers take the job and do us a favour.

      1. You are correct , I read he qualified through his granny , the press , so misleading at times. But he is a Scot and is capable. Hartpury College are knocking out class players just now , Rees Zammit being case in point.

      2. I can see a Craig – Skinner second row pairing for Scotland at some point. Both very athletic locks who don’t lack for grunt either. With Cummings and CHH I think we’ve a great group of locks developing, not to mention Jonny Gray is still only 26 and Carmichael has great potential too.

  4. Great article. Surely time to give pro contracts to some of the Academy players like Ollie Smith and Ross Thompson who have performed very well for u20’s and Ayrshire Bulls, and have been training with Warriors for over a year.

  5. Useful article but a few wee things are not what I understood. DTH has not announced he is retiring – presumably he was not offered a contract extension. My understanding is that Turner, Flockhart, McDonald, Gordon and Nakarawa have expiring contracts but we have not heard which have extensions but I suspect most fans would like it to be all of them. In the backs, Bryce also has an expiring contract I believe.
    The Media Relations side is missing in action. On social media worried fans yearn for info and we have nothing. Despite Covid19 Edinburgh have been confirming their squad so what is the issue at Scotstoun? Wilson has been in charge for 2 weeks. I think many of us expected announcements when he started. Silence. It would be nice to know who is being invited to train at Murrayfield on the 22nd…..

    1. Spot on. The fact that Edinburgh are making announcements and Warriors are staying silent rightly makes people uneasy. It implies – to me – either apathy towards the fans or a still variable situation, and that uncertainty at this point I. Any season is concerning. Especially with so much change going on. Exeter announced Gray months ago, why have we not announced anything?!

    2. It would not trouble me if Turner did not sign. Stewart is capable and less inconsistent IMO.

      1. Where there is a void, people fill it with possible half-truths…. However, seeing the squad depth at the other end of the M8 (and a historic desire of the blazers to see a successful Edinburgh) it just makes me wonder a bit about priorities… or are they simply backing a better bet for generating SRU income over the next 2/3 seasons??

        Warriors definitely in a rebuilding phase and it looks as though it could be a very difficult few seasons for us – but we need to remain competitive throughout the season or it could also affect support base etc….. The next few weeks will hopefully bring some good and well needed news and comms from Scotstoun.

        Don’t get me wrong Scottish rugby needs both teams operating at a competitive level to support the national team and it’s great to see Edinburgh stable and really challenging for honours…… let’s just hope there is parity behind the scenes £££.

      2. I thought Warriors were in a rebuilding phase when Rennie joined? Then in his second season? Glasgow is not a galacticos team. Never likely to be. But – like Sarries, Exeter and Leinster – we do tend to get a lot from our players, even if we can’t attract the players that those teams can. Under Wilson Blues played an attractive style of rugby; hopefully he’ll use the hard edge and set piece dominance we’ve developed, and our boys’ skills, to do some damage. Worth remembering that the first time we made the ERCC QFs we spent a fair chunk of the season in an injury crisis.

    1. Think his deal ends end of this season , unless it has been extended and I missed it.

      1. Reid’s been let go by Northampton. His short-term contract has been covered. Both he and Darryl Marfo are free agents.

  6. Tim Swinson has signed for Saracens. I thought he had another season in him and while he has his detractors he showed in a few games last season that he can still put in a good shift. Could Glasgow have done more to keep him, in light of a lack of specialist locks?

    1. From what Swinson said this was a unique opportunity to play for his hometown club and fulfil a career ambition. Don’t think it says anything about Glasgow – players have their own motivations beyond pay and conditions.

  7. I see that’s Josh Strauss left the Blues by mutual consent. Possible return to Scotstoun?

    1. Not been hearing anything regarding Strauss… but crosbie’s name keeps popping up and rumours of Cornell Du Preez being approached.

      1. Crosbie was in several pictures put out by Edinburgh of their training yesterday. The two media teams do have a habit of leg pulling but I suspect “Crosbie to Scotstoun” needs filed under “Wishful Thinking”. I suspect the signings in the back 5 of the scrum mentioned by Danny Wilson will be re-signing MacDonald and Flockhart and new signing of Hamish Bain.

  8. I can’t see the previous comments or you’re responses Cam/Rory but I’d request that Neil’s IP be banned. His initial comment was sickening.

    1. We’re doing all we can to stop persistent offenders coming back but people will often find a way back in. We’ve explored different comments systems as well but we don’t want to make it harder for others to comment just because of a few idiots.

      In previous comments we just asked people to reply to anything that breaches our rules by typing “admin” and we’ll pick it up. The worst thing you can do is engage as that only encourages them.

      1. What Cammy said – using the word “moderator” or “admin” in a comment will put it straight into the pending queue for our attention (it shouldn’t be visible on the site unless approved). It won’t affect the offending comment but we will be able to find and deal with it more quickly.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion