Glasgow Warriors RWC squad analysis part 1: The backs

Glasgow have used 38 players in the 5 games played before their full complement is available for selection after World Cup duty. 9 of them were involved in the RWC and only featured briefly for the Warriors – we’ll get to them in a later article looking at the full squad. For now the focus is on the 29 backs and forwards who saw the side through what was a very challenging period for the club.

Gregor Townsend was actually left with a 38 man squad plus 14 Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 3 players. Of the 8 players brought in as RWC cover only Rory Clegg and Scott Wight have managed game time in competitive fixtures. Steven Findlay, Gary Strain, George Hunter, Jason Hill, Nyle Godsmark and Mark Robertson will return to their clubs or Scotland 7s with our thanks. The relationships built up and the training they’ve been through means they’ll stay on the fringes of the Warriors squad though and may return in the event of an injury crisis.

Another 3 from the main squad have yet to feature in the league – Javan Sebastian, Will Bordill and Sam Johnson. Javan and Will are in a bit of a queue for the TH prop and openside flanker positions respectively and may end up out on loan. Sam had a run out in the friendly against the Army but looked a good few kilos off his fighting weight and it may take a while to get him back to full strength.

First up from the RWC squad – the backs:

Back 3:

Peter Murchie was named as captain but was injured and out after a game and a quarter – so it’s been a season of highs and lows already for him. He’s Glasgow’s Mr. Reliable and was moved into the centres to try and shore up an inexperienced midfield. We know what he can do but it should only ever be at full back! FIRST TEAM SQUAD

Glenn Bryce showed some lovely touches and ran some great lines to pick up tries against Scarlets and Connacht. Very unlucky to pick up an injury in the friendly against the Army. He has the opportunity to push Murchie for the backup slot to Hogg but is he too lightweight for the pro game? Only made 4 tackles in 2 games and missed half of them. BACK UP SQUAD

For such a small guy Lee Jones doesn’t lack for commitment and in fact has the best tackle completion (88%) of any of the back 3 players used in the opening 5 games. Somewhere Scotland’s top scientists are working on creating a Taqele Jones hybrid to lead us to glory at RWC 2039. BACKUP SQUAD

After an excursion with the national squad Rory Hughes appears to have returned with a renewed sense of purpose and is showing a nice line in breaking tackles. Hopefully won’t need to fill in at full back too often as he looked about as comfortable as Bob Harley in a tanning salon. BACKUP SQUAD

What can you say about Taqele Naiyarovoro? It’s certainly been an interesting start for the big man! Yellow cards aside, only Junior has made more ground per game and Taq already tops the charts for clean breaks and offloads. He’s going to do some serious damage alongside the likes of Russell, Bennett and Hogg. STARTER

Junior Bulumakau is the find of the season among the backs. He ripped it up at Thomond Park before showing the deftest of touches to score possibly the try of the season so far to get the BP back on track versus Dragons. An X factor player who will only improve with full time coaching and conditioning. FIRST TEAM SQUAD

Centres:

It’s been a mixed bag so far this season from Fraser Lyle. At times he has been Glasgow’s most threatening runner with ball in hand but he’s dropped more balls than puberty and his defence has been shown up due to a little bit of naivety and a lack of power – 74% tackle completion is 15-20% below where our centres should be. BACKUP SQUAD

Robbie Fergusson has made a remarkable (and welcome) return to rugby after beating cancer. As one of only 2 SRA players to get game time this season he’s come into some difficult situations and not looked out of place. if he can add some power without losing pace he could be a handy squad member. HITTING THE GYM AND THE PROTEIN SHAKES

Alex Dunbar is the key man when it comes to balancing the midfield for Glasgow (and Scotland) and he would have been a shoo in for the RWC squad if he was fit. Showed his class on his return in a man of the match display against the Dragons. Would he have made the difference if he’d been fit to face Leinster? STARTER

Stand offs:

As one of the stand out performers during the RWC period, it was a surprise to see Rory Clegg benched against both Scarlets and Leinster. Before the announcement of his move to Oyonnax there were plenty among the Glasgow faithful who would have been happy to see the ginger maestro’s deal extended to at least the end of the season. OFF TO FRANCE

Not much seemed to go right for Scott Wight after his late call up to travel to Canada with the squad. He did make 5 times as many tackles per match as Rory Clegg but it was the ones he missed (or didn’t get to) that the Scotstoun crowd seemed to pick up on. A more fundamental issue was some poor kicking from hand which put the side under pressure. FRINGES

What can I say about Gregor Hunter? Well more than just his name (which is what I had in the first draft of this piece) would be good! It’s been great to see him out on the pitch after he lost so many months (years even) to injury. Proved he’s tougher than you might think for a fella his size after shaking off a huge hit (nowhere near his head fortunately) in the friendly against the Army. Toonie clearly rates him so it’ll be interesting to see if he picks up more game time this season. BACKUP SQUAD

Scrum Halves:

At times Grayson Hart has shown the physicality he can bring to the position. At times his service has been slick and he’s helped the side go through the phases well. Unfortunately there’s also been an awful lot of slowing down the play and he’s been a bit of a penalty magnet (having not conceded a single one for Embra last season!) BACKUP SQUAD

The oldest man in the squad during the RWC, Mike Blair has rolled back the years and it’s been noticeable that Glasgow’s play has tended to be more composed when he’s been on the pitch. In an odd situation because his competitive side will want to play but in his role as mentor to the other scrum halves he’ll have failed if he is the one in the team! FIRST TEAM SQUAD


Click for Part 2 – the forwards!

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