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Warriors turn to new boys

GREGOR Townsend has demanded that Glasgow use their recent Heineken Cup performance against Toulon as the benchmark when they host Connacht this afternoon in the RaboDirect PRO12, despite losing 12 players to the Scotland squad for yesterday's Calcutta Cup.

Glasgow have lost their last four games in all competitions at Scotstoun and Townsend has been forced to hand wing debuts to new signing Lee Jones and Rory Hughes, who is part of the Scottish Rugby Elite Development programme, for the visit of Connacht.

Townsend said: "Although we lost our last home game with Toulon, it was a performance I was incredibly proud of. Now we must build on it against Connacht today.

"With three successive away games to follow against Cardiff, the Dragons and Leinster, and the fact that we have suffered damaging defeats at Scotstoun in recent games, it means there is an awful lot of extra significance attached to this game.

"Connacht are an extremely tough side to play and it was a very close game when we beat them 19-12 over in Galway in November.

"It will be another tight encounter this afternoon but we'll settle for a similar result."

The Warriors head coach has no qualms over handing Jones, who was recruited from the Scotland 7s squad, his debut.

"We were delighted to get Lee in this week as he is a player who has impressed in the international set-up and is a proven try scorer," he said.

Niko Matawalu moves to full-back, while Richie Vernon starts his first game at centre in partnership with Mark Bennett. South African Josh Strauss returns to the side after missing the Toulon game through injury and will captain the team at No 8.

With Ruaridh Jackson released from Scotland duty and Henry Pyrgos starting at No 9, Warriors have an international half-back axis that should provide them with flair and incision. Up front, Gordon Reid starts at loose-head and Ed Kalman is at tight-head, while Pat MacArthur also comes back from Scotland duty to take his place at hooker.

Leone Nakarawa and Tom Ryder provide the lock pairing, while Rob Harley is at blindside with new Scotland A cap Tyrone Holmes at openside.

Former Warriors Elite Development scrum-half Murray McConnell is named amongst the replacements, having been outstanding for Ayr this season. The No 9 is a player Townsend has great hopes for.

"We've been keeping an eye on a number of young Scottish club players and Murray McConnell is one who has been working extremely hard and fully deserves to be involved this weekend," he said.

Edinburgh's trip to Rodney Parade to face the Dragons has been called off due to a waterlogged pitch.

Glasgow v Connacht, Scotstoun, 2pm

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