Glasgow Warriors are hoping to kick-start a winning weekend for Scotland as both Glasgow and Edinburgh, plus the national team and a number of representative teams, all face Welsh opposition over the next two days.
The Warriors get things underway at Firhill on Friday night (11 February, kick-off 7.35pm) against Cardiff Blues before rivals Edinburgh face the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Saturday afternoon (12 February, kick-off 2pm). The fixtures culminate with the big international at Murrayfield on Saturday evening (12 February, kick-off 5pm).
Looking forward to an action-packed weekend against the Welsh, Warriors head coach, Sean Lineen, said: “We’d love to have a successful weekend against the Welsh and it all starts at Firhill on Friday night.
“I’d love to see a big crowd along too because there are a lot of good players out there with points to prove and they’re delighted to represent Glasgow and eager to get us off to a winning weekend.”
Among eight changes from the 16-23 win against Newport Gwent Dragons in the Heineken Cup on 23 January, the Warriors welcome rookie stand-off Duncan Weir from injury.
“It’s good news to have Duncan back after the shoulder injury he sustained playing for Scotland ‘A’,” Lineen continued.
“A lot is expected of Duncan in his first year, but he sets very high standards for himself so the players around him, like Colin Gregor at nine and Peter Murchie at 12, need to help him.”
Weir will partner Colin Gregor at half-back to create a new partnership behind the scrum. Gregor has also been awarded the captaincy as Lineen sees the scrum-half’s leadership and rugby skills continue to improve.
Lineen continued: “Budgie’s (Gregor’s nickname) really improved. He is a very skilful ball player but he’s added a little edge to his game.
“He’s taken on the role of leader and is leading by example which is what you want in a captain.
“It’s potentially a very exciting pairing at nine and ten. You want to have threats right across your backline and both Colin and Duncan are threats in their own right.”
The only other change in the back division sees Hefin O’Hare come onto the wing in place of Colin Shaw who drops to the bench.
In the pack, Glasgow field an entirely new front row as prop Ryan Grant is given the nod ahead of Jon Welsh whilst hooker Dougie Hall and tight-head Moray Low are on Scotland duty. Although, Hall has been withdrawn from the Scotland match-day 22 due to a shoulder problem.
Ed Kalman comes in for Low and Fergus Thomson replaces Hall.
New signing Tom Ryder will make his first appearance since signing with the Warriors and will once again fill the void he occupied whilst Al Kellock was out injured earlier in the season. This time, however, Kellock will be leading his country out of the Murrayfield tunnel for the first time.
In the back-row, Calum Forrester returns from a knee injury in place of Richie Vernon, also on Scotland duty, and Johnnie Beattie comes in for Ryan Wilson who drops to the bench.
Glasgow Warriors team to play Cardiff Blues in the Magners League at Firhill on Friday 11 February (kick-off 7.35pm)
15 Bernardo Stortoni
14 Hefin O’Hare
13 Federico Aramburu
12 Peter Murchie
11 DTH van der Merwe
10 Duncan Weir
9 Colin Gregor CAPTAIN
1 Ryan Grant
2 Fergus Thomson
3 Ed Kalman
4 Aly Muldowney
5 Tom Ryder
6 Robert Harley
7 Calum Forrester
8 Johnnie Beattie
Substitutes: 16 Finlay Gillies, 17 Kevin Tkachuk, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Chris Fusaro, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Colin Shaw