Glasgow Warriors are looking to take another step towards securing a home semi-final in the Guinness Pro14 Final Series when they welcome Zebre to Scotstoun on Friday night.
The cold weather in Scotland over the last few weeks means this is a belated return to action for Glasgow, who lost their last match 21-10 at Munster a month ago – just their second defeat of the season.
Zebre have had the same amount of time to prepare for this top versus bottom clash in Conference A, following their 10-7 defeat against Cardiff Blues at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
What’s at stake?
Conference A leaders Glasgow Warriors have already secured their place in the Guinness Pro14 Final Series and two more victories from their remaining five games will give them a home semi-final.
Zebre have an eight-point gap to make up on the Ospreys if they are to lift themselves off the bottom of the Conference, but will have to improve on their away record.
Following the conclusion of the Six Nations, both teams will be able to welcome their international players back into their folds.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors)
Canada international DTH van der Merwe makes his ‘second debut’ for Glasgow on the left wing after rejoining from Newcastle Falcons last week.
Flanker Callum Gibbins will captain the team in what is his first appearance since December, following his recovery from an Achilles injury, while hooker George Turner also makes his return.
Head coach David Rennie has recalled Scotland internationals Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Nick Grigg, Jamie Bhatti and Peter Horne into his matchday squad.
Team news (Zebre)
Head coach Michael Bradley has made three changes to the team that lost to Cardiff in Round 16, with most of his internationals given a rest after their Six Nations exertions.
But one of them, Guglielmo Palazzani, captains the side from scrum-half, while Edoardo Padovani makes his return at full back.
Carlo Canna also returns from Italian duty to play at fly-half and the only change to the pack from last month sees Eduardo Bello come in at tighthead prop.
Glasgow Warriors head coach David Rennie said: “We had a handful of guys due to return from injury against Ulster, Cully (Callum Gibbins) being one of them so he’s keen as.
“It’s my first year here, but by all accounts Zebre are a much better side than they have been in the past.
“They’ve got 22 points and have upset a lot of teams so far this season.
“They play a positive brand of footie and lead the comp in terms of offloads and line breaks. They’ve got some very dangerous personnel so we’ll be have to be at our best.”
Key battle – Adam Hastings v Carlo Canna
In the absence of the rested Finn Russell, Adam Hastings will be looking to keep Glasgow’s flowing attacking game ticking over from fly-half.
This will also be a chance for Canna to impress, after he had to make do with a place on the bench while with Italy during the Six Nations, with Tommaso Allan preferred in the Azzurri’s No.10 jersey.
Zebre are aiming for rare consecutive away wins in the Guinness Pro14 and if Canna gets them firing, the visitors have a better chance of causing what would be a surprise result.
Key fact: Glasgow have won all 11 previous meetings against Zebre in the Guinness Pro14.
Did you know? Glasgow won the reverse fixture 40-20 at Stadio Sergio Lafranchi in January, with Lee Jones scoring two of their six tries
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Lee Jones, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe, Adam Hastings, Henry Pyrgos, Oli Kebble, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Scott Cummings, Rob Harley, Callum Gibbins, Matt Fagerson
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Jamie Bhatti, Siua Halanukonuka, Kiran McDonald, Chris Fusaro, George Horne, Peter Horne, Lelia Masaga
Zebre: Edoardo Padovani, Gabriele Di Guilio, Serafin Bordoli, Faialaga Afamasaga, Giovanbattista Venditti, Carlo Canna, Guglielmo Palazzani, Cruze Ah-Nau, Oliviero Fabiani, Eduardo Bello, David Sisi, Leonard Krumov, Derick Minnie, Johan Meyer, James Tucker
Replacements: Tommaso D’Apice, Andrea De Marchi, Roberto Tenga, Valerio Bernabo, Jacopo Sarto, Riccardo Raffaele, Maicol Azzolini, Rory Parata
DTH van der Merwe returned to his old stomping ground with two scores to help Glasgow Warriors to a ten-try victory over Zebre at Scotstoun.
Glasgow were dominant right from the off and built a strong first-half lead thanks to doubles from van der Merwe and Ruaridh Jackson, adding to a penalty try and Henry Pyrgos’ score.
In the second half Carlo Canna registered the away side’s only try, but Glasgow accelerated away with scores for Zander Fagerson and Callum Gibbins.
There was still time for replacement Lelia Masaga to enter the fray and score the final try of the night, helping to extend Glasgow’s lead at the top of Conference A.
The home side piled on the pressure early on and were rewarded just eight minutes in when van der Merwe touched down out wide following powerful work from the forwards and a floated pass from Adam Hastings.
The fly-half then made the acute conversion and Glasgow were soon up-field once again, with Jackson touching down under the posts following a clever quick penalty from scrum-half Pyrgos.
Zebre had the chance to fire back minutes later with two penalties kicked into the 22, but the resulting lineout wasn’t successfully collected.
On 23 minutes Jones intercepted a loose pass, kicked through and was then adjudged to have been tackled without the ball – a penalty try the result and a yellow card for Canna.
With the extra man, a set-play then got the Warriors’ bonus-point score, van der Merwe cutting through from a lineout move to dive over for his second.
Hastings then made a break which Pyrgos was on hand to finish off, and just before the break Jackson completed his double resulting from a delightful miss-pass on the blindside.
After the break Glasgow’s good night continued, with Jones this time getting his name on the scoreboard as he finished off a move from broken play.
Eight minutes later though and Zebre had their first score of the night as Canna got himself over the line and converted his own try.
The Warriors responded and hammered away at the opposition line until Fagerson was able to force his way over, and just before the hour mark Gibbins marked his return with a try from the back of a maul.
Replacement Masaga then got in on the act with 15 minutes left to play, collecting a pass from Peter Horne and barging over under the posts for his first try for the club.
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