Glasgow Warriors: Return of ‘talisman’ Richie Gray hailed by coach Danny Wilson
It is perhaps a reflection on how much Edinburgh and Glasgow have struggled this season that both coaches are claiming underdog status going into today’s inter-city derby.
Scotland’s two pro sides can muster just four wins between them in the Guinness Pro14 so a victory this afternoon would be the perfect pick-me-up.
Conversely, defeat at Murrayfield would be a wretched way to bring in the new year and that is likely to be reflected in what is expected to be a fiercely contested 1872 Cup clash.
The news that the teams will meet again on Friday at Scotstoun adds extra spice to what now becomes a pivotal week for these age-old rivals.
Danny Wilson, in his first season as Glasgow’s head coach, has had to cope without a clutch of key players due to injury and Covid-19. The latest setback came on Thursday when club captain Fraser Brown and scrum-half George Horne were both ruled out for three months. The medical bulletin also revealed that a third Scotland international, prop Alex Allan, would miss the remainder of the season following an operation on his ruptured Achilles tendon.
Wilson was therefore heartened to be able to name Richie Gray in his side for the first time since October. The big lock is a formidable figure and his return to Glasgow from France in the summer was viewed as a smart bit of business by the Glasgow coach.
“It is great to have him back,” said Wilson. “Since the Ospreys game he has struggled with concussion. He has got through the whole [concussion protocol] process and is in a good place and looking forward to getting back on the field and we are looking forward to having him out there.
“He has not played a huge amount of rugby for us. We all know what his experience brings, his leadership, his lineout work. He is a talisman in terms of Scottish rugby and it is great to have him out there. He is fans’ favourite as well.”
Gray, who will be partnered in the second row by Scott Cummings, is one of five changes made by Wilson since Glasgow’s last outing - that distressing 42-0 defeat in Exeter in mid-December.
The other change in the pack is In the front-row where prop Aki Seiuli replaces the unavailable Oli Kebble.
In the backs, Brandon Thomson makes his first start of the season at stand-off, with Pete Horne dropping out due to concussion. Ratu Tagive is named on the wing in place of Tommy Seymour - also concussed – and Huw Jones starts at full-back, with LA-bound Glenn Bryce dropping to the bench.
“We have 14 boys unavailable to us at the moment and a big chunk of that is your Oli Kebbles, your Fraser Browns - boys that would have played in this fixture,” said Wilson
“But I think it is still pleasing for me that we can put out a very strong team, in certain positions especially.”
The Warriors coach tempered this by insisting Edinburgh were favourites.
“They are at home aren’t they? They have picked a very strong team, pretty much their full hit bar maybe Gilcho [Grant Gilchrist]. Other than that they are at full tilt and at home and come off the back of a big win.”
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