GLASGOW WARRIORS will be boosted by the return of their two British and Irish Lions squad members in tonight’s Rainbow Cup clash against the Dragons at Cardiff City Stadium. Tight-head prop Zander Fagerson and scrum-half Ali Price were wrapped in cottonwool for the team’s last match against Edinburgh a fortnight ago, but both players made themselves available for selection this week, as they aim to strike a balance between staying match fresh and avoiding burn-out/injury ahead of this summer’s tour to South Africa. 

“Nothing has changed from our original approach with those guys,” explained head coach Danny Wilson. “They are involved in their own management about what they want to play and when they want to play. That’s going to motivate players rather than being told they’ve got to play. They both wanted to play this game and we’ve given them that leeway for the latter end of the season. So, it’s off their own bat which is good."

Warriors are currently joint second in the Rainbow Cup’s European conference, so really need to win their two remaining games and hope that top of the table Benetton slip-up if they are to qualify for the competition’s final, which will be played in Italy on 19th June against the winner of the South African conference.  

While winning the Rainbow Cup would be a morale boost, the reality is that it is a holding competition ahead of club rugby hopefully returning to some sort of normality next season, so Wilson will continue to mix and match his side in order to grow the depth of his squad.  

“First and foremost, we want to win this game and give ourselves an opportunity to go to a final, but at the same time there’s a bigger picture and when you make those kinds of plans and decisions you need to stick to them," he said. "If we come out the other end of that in a really positive way, then brilliant.

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"I’ve said right from the start that part of this season was about blooding younger players and we’ve certainly done that. We’ve got seven players that we’ve blooded who have come through the academy or are young talent who have come into the team so that will help the future. There is certainly a long-term project in place and I feel we are making steps in the right direction."

On top of Fagerson replacing Enrique Pieretto in the No3 jersey, and Price replacing George Horne at No9, Wilson has made four more changes to the starting XV which put Edinburgh to the sword a fortnight ago. 

In the pack, academy prospect Tom Lambert – whose recent performances have earned him a full-time contract for next season – is replaced at loose-head prop by recent Samoan senior squad call-up Aki Seiuli, and Scott Cummings returns from concussion to replace fellow Scotland international Richie Gray in the second-row. 

Behind the scrum, Sam Johnson is recalled at inside centre and Stafford McDowall drops to the bench, and Cole Forbes is named ahead of Ratu Tagive on the left wing. 

“We’ve got a few different combinations compared with the last two derbies,” he added. “We’ve done that in each game so far. We’ve still got some youngsters in there, with the likes of Rory Darge getting another opportunity because he hasn’t been with us very long but it is apparent already that he is very capable, and he took that opportunity against Edinburgh very well. For me he was close to being man-of-the-match."

This is the third meeting between the two sides this season, and Dragons came out on top in both of the previous encounters, so Wilson's boys know that they need to produce a big performance. 

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“I didn’t feel physically we won that battle the last time we played them,” he stated. “We didn’t get enough momentum on the gain-line or on both sides of the ball, so we need to make sure that we approach this like the derbies when we went in with a big mindset of winning the gain-line, which led to us being able to get the wins.  

“They’ve got a lot of jackal threats around players like Ollie Griffiths and Ross Moriarty, who are hard over ball, so the momentum of our gain-line is going to be massive.  

“It starts there, but what you’ve also seen with the Dragons recently is that they are playing a lot faster,” he added. “They’re playing a good brand of rugby and scoring a lot of tries, but we’re playing a good brand of rugby too, so it’s two very attacking sides. Defensively, the battle around that side of the game will be very important.” 

 

Glasgow Warriors (v Dragons at Cardiff City Stadium, Saturday @ 7.35pm): A Hastings; K Steyn, N Grigg, S Johnson, C Forbes; R Thompson, A Price; A Seiuli, G Turner, Z Fagerson, R Harley, S Cummings, R Wilson, R Darge, M Fagerson. Subs: F Brown, T Lambert, E Pieretto, K McDonald, F Lokotui, G Horne, S McDowall, R McLean.

Dragons: I Davies; J Holmes, J Dixon, A Owen, R Dyer; S Davies, G Bertranou; B Harris, R Hibbard, L Fairbrother, M Screech, B Carter, R Moriarty (C), O Griffiths, A Wainwright. Subs: E Dee, J Reynolds, A Jarvis, J Davies, T Basham, D Babos, E Lloyd, J Roberts.