Glasgow Warriors are set to take on Aviron Bayonnais in their first-ever meeting in the Champions Cup tomorrow night at the Stade Jean Dauger. The Scottish side will be hoping to secure a win and a home tie in the last 16 of the competition, but they will have to do so with a young and inexperienced squad.
Onus on youth for Glasgow
Glasgow Warriors have been hit by a number of injuries and international call-ups, leaving them with a depleted squad for their European campaign. Head coach Franco Smith has opted to give some of his young talents a chance to shine on the big stage, naming Sione Tuipulotu as captain for the first time. The 24-year-old centre, who joined Glasgow from Cardiff in the summer, has impressed with his powerful running and leadership skills.
Smith has also handed starts to Tom Jordan, Sebastian Cancelliere, Rory Darge, Jamie Dobie and Ross Thompson, who have all shown promise in the United Rugby Championship this season. The coach said he was confident in his young players and their ability to cope with the pressure of a European match.
“We have a lot of faith in these guys. They have been working hard and they deserve this opportunity. They have shown that they can play at this level and they are hungry to prove themselves. We are not going there to make up the numbers, we are going there to win and to play our brand of rugby,” Smith said.
Bayonne pose a tough test
Aviron Bayonnais are not to be underestimated, as they have proven to be a formidable force at home. The French side have won four of their five home games in the Champions Cup, including a stunning 28-27 victory over Leicester Tigers last week. They have a strong pack, led by former All Black Liam Messam, and a dangerous backline, featuring the likes of Maxime Lafage, Manu Saubusse and Malietoa Hingano.
Bayonne coach Yannick Bru said he was expecting a tough challenge from Glasgow, who he praised for their attacking flair and resilience.
“Glasgow are a very good team, very dynamic and very creative. They have a lot of speed and skill in their backs and they can score from anywhere. They are also very brave and they never give up. They showed that against Northampton, when they came back from a big deficit to draw the game. We have to be ready for a hard fight and we have to be disciplined and focused,” Bru said.
Glasgow eyeing home advantage
Glasgow Warriors have already secured a place in the last 16 of the Champions Cup, but they will be aiming to finish as high as possible in Pool A to secure a home tie in the next round. The Scottish side are currently second in the pool, behind Leicester Tigers, but they could be overtaken by Cardiff and Connacht, who have games in hand.
Glasgow captain Sione Tuipulotu said he was honoured to lead the team and he was determined to help them achieve their goal of playing at Scotstoun in the knockout stages.
“It’s a huge privilege to be named captain for this game. It’s something I never expected, but I’m very grateful and humbled by the trust that Franco and the coaches have shown in me. I’m looking forward to leading the boys out there and giving everything for the jersey,” Tuipulotu said.
“We know how important this game is for us. We want to finish as high as we can in the pool and we want to play at home in front of our fans. We have a great record at Scotstoun and we know how much of a difference they can make. We have to go to Bayonne and get the job done.”