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Scott Cummings injury return provides Glasgow Warriors boost for daunting Le Rochelle clash

THE return of second-row Scott Cummings from a shoulder injury suffered playing for Scotland against Japan at the end of the Autumn Test Series has provided Glasgow Warriors with a timely boost as they head to France for a daunting Champions Cup campaign opener again Le Rochelle tomorrow afternoon. 

Meanwhile, co-captain Ryan Wilson will miss the game because he is following Covid protocols but has a more than capable replacement, with Scotland international Matt Fagerson wearing the No 6 jersey for this clash at Stade Marcel Deflandre after being given a break last weekend.  

The only other personnel change to the side which started against Dragons seven days ago is the return of the rested Sam Johnson at inside-centre, which has prompted a backline reshuffle involving Sione Tuipulotu shifting to outside-centre, Kyle Steyn returning to the left wing, and Cole Forbes missing out. 

With Fraser Brown – the other co-captain – still out with a knee injury sustained in mid-October, on-field leadership of the side this weekend has been passed to scrum-half Ali Price. 

“It’s great to have Scott [Cummings] back,” said head coach Danny Wilson. “We would have liked him to have played last week against the Dragons to get a game under his belt before going straight into a big European game – but, outside of that, it’s obviously great news. He’s not had much luck with injuries this year but hopefully he’ll get through this game and get a run under his belt. 

“Ryan [Wilson] should be back next week but we’re seeing with Covid that things are growing again,” he continued. “There may be some more of these headaches we have to be prepared for. This is the latest one and it means he can’t travel or be with us which is a blow as he’s the captain and a talisman for Glasgow. 

“However, he isn’t going to play every game and we have to be able to manage the leadership without him through guys like Ali and Sam Johnson. What we’ll see is the natural evolution of the group and they’ll get the opportunity to do that in a very tough venue – but one where there will be a lot of great learnings. 

“We have the joint captains in Fraser and Ryan, and we’ve brought Ali into that to develop a younger captain to come through for the future, and to almost have a vice-captain role if one of those two isn’t on the pitch. Ali has been exposed to that and has done a fair bit in the leadership role with Scotland as well.  

“He’s a very good pro. In the few years that I’ve worked with him with Scotland and with Glasgow, he’s been hugely impressive as a leader.  

“He has a very mature understanding of the game, and is outstanding with that balance of bringing the running threat that he’s got while also recognising backfield space to push you forward and put the opposition under pressure. That’s where he’s grown massively.  

“He’s got a good rugby nous and he’s got a great relationship with a lot of the players. They very much respect him and I think he’ll make a very good future captain. 

“To be captain and win his 100th cap as well, what a day for him. It’s going to be something we’ll all want to get behind.” 

Warriors secured a famous 27-24 win when they took on La Rochelle at the same venue in the same competition two years ago, but Sunday’s opponents have developed their game under head coach Ronan O’Gara – the former Ireland and Lions stand-off – since then. They currently sit fifth in the French Top 14 and were beaten finalists in last year’s Champions Cup.

“They are quite a difficult animal to analyse, or an easy animal to analyse depending on how you look at it,” said Wilson. “They have two strings to their bow because they are very, very physical, one of the biggest sides I’ve ever played against, they’re huge, and they also play a fair bit of rugby.  

“However, at the same time, I think there’s areas we can exploit, there’s opportunities we’ll want to create, and I think we’ll play a brand of rugby which will really test them.  

“Getting into an arm-wrestle is probably not the way to go, so we’ll have to make sure that we impose our game on them.” 

La Rochelle head into this match pretty close to full-loaded, which means Gregory Alldritt, Will Skelton and 24-stone tight-head prop Uini Atonio all start. 

“Glasgow come here with no pressure on them and nothing to lose,” said O’Gara. “They will attack. That’s normal, we’re in the Champions Cup. We’re at the deep end. We want to show that it’s really important for us.”  

Glasgow Warriors (v La Rochelle at Stade Marcel Deflandre, Sunday 4.15pm): J McKay; K Steyn, Tuipulotu, S Johnson, R McLean; R Thompson, A Price©; O Kebble, G Turner, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, R Gray, M Fagerson, R Darge, J Dempsey. Replacements: J Matthews, J Bhatti, E Pieretto, L Bean, R Harley, A Miller, G Horne, D Weir. 

La Rochelle: B Dulin; J Favre, J Sinzelle, L Botia, A Retiere; I West, T Kerr-Barlow; R Wardi, P Bourgarit, U Atonio, R Sazy, W Skelton, P Boudehent, V Vito, G Alldritt. Replacements: G Lagahe, D Priso, R Herrera, T Lavault, R Bourdeau, P Popelin, E Buliruarua, J Danty. 

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