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Glasgow send Pacific wave against Blues

Forza Fiji?

In the multi-national cultural stew that is the Glasgow Warriors dressing room these days, the Pacific archipelago could emerge as the most critical influence on the Warriors' prospects of retaining an interest in this season's Heineken Cup after tonight's crucial game with Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun.

Gregor Townsend, the Glasgow head coach, has kept faith with the mercurial Niko Matawalu at scrum-half, has given a first start to the strapping Leone Nakarawa in the second row and has added the mountainous prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa to the bench.

As the Blues seemed to have the measure of Matawalu last week, that particular selection might raise a few eyebrows among Glasgow fans, but Townsend was adamant that the finger of blame for the 29-10 defeat in Cardiff should not be pointed that way. Instead, Townsend suggested that Glasgow's support work was not up to scratch, hinting that Matawalu should have had better service form the players around him.

"Niko is a very creative player and he's always trying to do what's best for the team and put players into space," said Townsend. "When he has opportunity to find space he'll take it, but he is creative and tries to get forwards over the gain-line.

"We play a lot of games in training so players know what Niko's tendencies are, just as they know what [fellow scrum-halves] Chris Cusiter's and Henry Pyrgos's are. They should be able to react accordingly. A lot of our build-up play and attacking play in Cardiff was good and he was a good part of that."

Maybe so, but there was also a fitful look to so much of what Warriors did at the Arms Park a week ago. Chances were squandered, points given away cheaply. Given that Cardiff had been stretched to the limit by injuries before they scraped their pack together, the Warriors forwards should have had a field day. Instead they came off distinctly second best, in the breakdown area especially.

They also failed to take advantage of a dominant scrum, a factor that presumably played a large part in Townsend's decision to demote No.8 Josh Strauss to the substitutes' bench. In all, the coach has made eight changes to his starting line-up, a move which could be seen as a measure of Glasgow's strength in depth these days, but which could also reflect persistent uncertainty about what the best line-up might be.

Certainly, there was a powerful impression last week that Glasgow, playing high-tempo rugby from the off, were trying to collect the interest on deposits they had not yet made. In which light, the choice of Nakarawa at lock might also seem suspect, as his most obvious value is in the loose rather than the fundamentals of his position. Again, though, Townsend was happy to stand by his man.

"He brings a real ball-carrying ­ability," Townsend said. "He's quick, fit, has got a continuity, off-loading game that players can work off. But he is excellent in the lineout and pushes hard at scrums. That's his job, the set-piece and getting to rucks, and if we can get him carrying ball as well then that's a bonus."

Nakarawa has played 25 times for his country although, in Test circles he is probably best known for a game he did not play. In 2011, he was barred from entering New Zealand for a game against the All Blacks as he was then a member of the Fijian armed forces and was subject to travel sanctions imposed after a military coup in his home country. Nakarawa then resigned from the army in order to take part in the World Cup that year.

Al Kellock, the Glasgow captain, has no doubt that his new second-row partner can be a positive influence on the side. "First and foremost, he is a very good lineout forward," Kellock said of the 25-year-old.

"He has a high work rate and he is also very good around the park. He will free the game up, but he knows, as a second-row forward, that is secondary. He has got to concentrate on his foundations. But both his scrum and lineout skills are really good."

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