GLAS­GOW WAR­RIORS

Evening Times - - SPORT - BY KEVIN FERRIE

NOTH­ING could say more about the Glas­gow War­riors man­age­ment team’s con­fi­dence in its own meth­ods and abil­i­ties than the omis­sion of Ryan Wil­son, one of the club’s co-cap­tains, for their most im­por­tant match of the sea­son so far.

Win in Lyon and their chances of reach­ing the Cham­pi­ons Cup quar­ter-fi­nals for only the se­cond time in the 24-year his­tory of the com­pe­ti­tion im­prove ex­po­nen­tially. Leav­ing out a player who was in Scot­land’s 23 for ev­ery match of the au­tumn Test se­ries, in favour of both Adam Ashe, who has not played for the na­tional side since 2015 and Chris Fusaro, who won the last of his four caps the year be­fore that, is con­se­quently telling.

Dave Ren­nie, Glas­gow’s head coach, has al­ways said teams will be se­lected on what the man­age­ment sees rather than rep­u­ta­tions and, big as the gulf can be be­tween the Test arena and PRO14 matches dur­ing in­ter­na­tional win­dows, a bold call has been made on that ba­sis.

“Adam Ashe has been out­stand­ing for us over the last few weeks. We were ob­vi­ously keen to bring Matt Fager­son back in and both those boys have re­ally good foot­work, gives us very good go-for­wards and carry, are ex­plo­sive and de­fend well.

“We just re­ally wanted to re­ward that... it’s based on form. Ryan’s played pretty well for Scot­land as well, but we know that within those loose for­wards they’ll have to share the load and we wanted a spe­cial­ist seven on the bench in Chris Fusaro know­ing that Rob Har­ley can move from lock to 6 if we have a cou­ple of in­juries.

“So, un­for­tu­nately, Ryan misses out this week but as cap­tain he’s been out­stand­ing, he’s con­trib­uted mas­sively to the prepa­ra­tion and I’ve been re­ally im­pressed by him.

“We wanted to re­ward guys not just for play­ing well over the last month for us but there’s a num­ber who played re­ally well lead­ing into the in­ter­na­tional win­dow and played well for Scot­land.”

The other ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple is in mid­field where Nick Grigg is pre­ferred to Huw Jones, who started the three tough­est Tests in spite of match-cost­ing de­fen­sive er­rors in the first against Wales.

“Nick’s been out­stand­ing, both sides of the ball,” Ren­nie praised. “His abil­ity to chop de­fen­sively, his abil­ity to carry, he has so many line breaks and tackle breaks and his work be­yond the at­tack, at post-tackle he’s won a lot of ball. He’s done ev­ery­thing we’ve asked of him and de­serves an­other crack.”

There is an aware­ness that a com­bi­na­tion of French op­po­si­tion and con­di­tions in Lyon will make this a dif­fer­ent sort of chal­lenge from play­ing a top-of-the-ground game in the PRO14 and even in Test matches in Cardiff and Ed­in­burgh and while Ren­nie reck­oned it would have been a mis­take to take too much out of play­ers’ legs by train­ing on boggy sur­faces all week, they have pre­pared with that in mind.

“Ob­vi­ously, we play on a hard, fast sur­face here and I don’t think we will get that at Lyon. They are a big side, very skil­ful, so we still want to play a game that is quick, but we will have to bring a high level of phys­i­cal­ity to get the ball we want.

“We’ve picked a side that we think can do that,” he said. “We are mind­ful that they off­load more than any side in the com­pe­ti­tion.

“They have some un­be­liev­able ath­letes. Char­lie Ngatai, who I’ve had a lot to do with over the last five or six years, is a high-qual­ity player, a world-class mid­fielder.

“We’re clear on what we need to do and on the threats they bring. The chal­lenge is be­ing good enough to ex­pose them. We have trained in Scot­tish weather, which prob­a­bly a good start.

“The for­wards trained on grass for scrum­mag­ing, but we haven’t trained on grass all week. We didn’t want to go there with heavy legs af­ter train­ing in mud.”

While he be­lieves they have ad­dressed the fail­ings that have con­sis­tently let them down in Europe down the years, Ren­nie knows this will be a cru­cial test of that.

“Hope­fully we have shown ev­i­dence of the learn­ings that we got from last year,” he said.“Our abil­ity to look af­ter the ball has been a mas­sive fo­cus for us, as has our abil­ity to go multi-phase. There was good ev­i­dence of that last week.” is

Chris Fusaro (left) will start on the bench to­day while Ryan Wil­son drops out to give Adam Ashe a jersey

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