Both Scotland’s pro sides announced their matchday squads for this weekend’s fixtures, whilst Glasgow also reported 2 further player signings who will be joining in the summer whilst a familiar face has returned in a coaching capacity.
We’ll start with the Glasgow signings then. Having earlier in the week announcing the capture of Scottish qualified Sione Tuipulotu to the backs, the Warriors have strengthened their back-row options with Edinburgh pair Ally Miller and Rory Darge upping sticks and heading west.
Having secured their first-choice options of Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, and Villiame Mata on new contracts, plus a new deal for former ballet dancer* and Scotland international Nick Haining, Miller and former u20’s captain Darge have found opportunities limited in the capital, so will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Fraser Brown and former Warriors captain Al Kellock in moving from the capital to attain more game time.
Following Kelly Brown’s departure from the coaching division for family reasons, Danny Wilson welcomes another former Warrior to his platoon in Peter Murchie.
A club centurion and Pro12 winner, Murchie spent eight years with the side, picking up three Scotland caps along the way despite having to play understudy to some young lad called Stuart Hogg – who has gone on to have a semi-decent career so far – for a large part of it. Murchie in fact played the majority of the 13/14 season, including the Pro12 Grand Final, when Hogg himself admits he was acting like “Billy Big Boots”.
Moving from the head coach position at Super 6 side Ayrshire Bulls, Murchie said: “It’s really good to be back at Scotsoun.
“I learnt a tremendous amount during my time at Ayr – for me, it was vital that I had that experience. You learn on the job in a way, because it’s very different to being a player. You make mistakes and you learn from those. I’m incredibly grateful to Ayr – they’re a great club and I’m eternally thankful to them.”
As for Saturday’s lunchtime fixture against Zebre, Danny Wilson has made only a few changes to the side that stood up so valiantly against reigning champions Leinster last week following Adam Hastings’ red card. (N.B Hastings has received a three-week ban for his dismissal which rules him out of this fixture, Glagow’s game against Ospreys and Scotland v Ireland, and Scotland v Italy.)
Ross Thompson starts at stand-off in Hastings’ stead, there’s a shake-up in the engine room which sees Richie Gray take a rest and the “not quite match-fit” – to be as polite as possible – Leone Nakarawa drop to the bench with Rob Harley and Hamish Bain taking their places in the starting line-up.
Harley’s vacation of the blindside flanker spot hands a first start to Gregor Brown, and he’ll be joined in the back-row by Tom Gordon and captain Ryan Wilson, who leads the time for the 50th time.
Also of note is a possible debut for former Munster player Ian Keatley, although it’s safe to say it won’t be the veteran’s first rodeo.
Sunday afternoon will see Edinburgh host Benetton, looking to bounce back from two home defeats in a row which includes last week’s agonising loss to Scarlets.
Richard Cockerill has made half a dozen changes to the starting XV of that defeat, Dave Cherry released from Scotland camp to replace Mike Willemse but Andrew Davidson replaces Grant Gilchrist who is being held back by Scotland ahead of next week’s Six Nations fixture against Ireland. George Turner is unavailable for Glasgow due to Scotland duty, so we can probably bet (N.B responsibly, mind) on him starting at hooker against the men from the Emerald Isle.
Further changes in the pack see Villame Mata miss out through injury, so Luke Crosbie moves up from the bench spot he took last week to start at blindside, Nick Haining moves to no:8, and Ally Miller – the ink from his impending move to Glasgow still drying – starts at the openside berth.
The last two of six changes occurs at the key half-back positions, where the young duo of Charlie Shiel and Nathan Chamberlain replace Henry Pyrgos and the injured Jaco van der Walt, respectively.
From the bench, Mark Bennett is in line to make his 50th appearance for Edinburgh to go alongside his 50+ appearances for Glasgow, and keeping up the seemingly Ayr-oriented theme to today’s news, 20-year old stand-off Charlie Savala could make his debut.
Savala’s dad is from the west coast seaside town which makes the Sydney-born youngster eligible to represent Scotland should he make the grade, and wee Charlie even treaded the boards at Millbrae as a child when visiting on holiday.
Glasgow Warriors: Ollie Smith, Rufus McLean, Huw Jones,
Sam Johnson, Cole Forbes, Ross Thompson, Jamie Dobie;
Oli Kebble, Grant Stewart, Enrique Pieretto, Rob Harley,
Hamish Bain, Gregor Brown, Thomas Gordon, Ryan Wilson
Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Dylan Evans, D’arcy Rae,
James Scott, Leone Nakarawa, Sean Kennedy, Ian Keatley,
Edinburgh: Damien Hoyland, Jack Blain, James Johnstone,
George Taylor, Eroni Sau, Nathan Chamberlain, Charlie Shiel;
Pierre Schoeman, David Cherry, Lee-Roy Atalifo,
Magnus Bradbury, Andrew Davidson, Luke Crosbie, Ally Miller, Nick Haining
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Boan Venter, Simon Berghan, Andries Ferriera, Mesu Kunavula, Henry Pyrgos, Charlie Savala, Mark Bennett