Glasgow Warriors have completed their second high profile re-signing in as many days, with rising star Rob Harley putting pen to paper on a two-year extension ahead of Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against Ospreys at Firhill (kick-off 7.05pm).
The 21-year-old, who has captained the team to three tournament wins in the absence of regular skipper Al Kellock, has joined stand-off Ruaridh Jackson in committing his future to the Scotstoun club in the build-up to a game that will see six of the club’s returning Rugby World Cup players on Warriors duty for the first time this season.
The back-five forward has made an impressive impact since joining on a first professional contract last summer. The West of Scotland product turned in a series of standout performances during his debut campaign, scoring his first Warriors try in the 1872 Cup derby against Edinburgh at Murrayfield and winning an instant summons to the Scotland A team who went through season 2010/11 with a 100% record.
Harley’s rise continued with selection in the wider Scotland squad for the 2011 RBS 6 Nations Championship, a call that came again ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
His new deal with the Warriors will see him remain in the black and blue until at least the end of May 2014, a decision he today explained to the club’s official website, www.glasgowwarriors.org.
Harley said: “Committing to Glasgow Warriors was a straightforward call to make. I’ve enjoyed my time here immensely and I know it’s the right place for me to continue to develop.
“I’d like to thank all the coaches, support staff and fans at the club for helping me to grow as a player in the year and a bit I’ve been here, and I look forward to sharing a lot more good times with them and the rest of the squad in the coming months and years.
“It’s been an honour to captain the team while Al was at the World Cup, and I feel like the club is in a good place both on and off the field as we prepare for another massive game against Ospreys.”
Head coach Sean Lineen couldn’t hide his delight at the news, saying: “Rob is a real warrior, in all senses of the term. He’s a real tough competitor with a fantastic work rate who always wants to learn. He’s a pleasure to coach, and it’s a real boost to have got him tied up on an extended contract.”
Lineen’s team for the visit of the unbeaten RaboDirect PRO12 leaders shows six changes from that which beat Dragons 24-19 on October 7. There are two switches in the backline, where Chris Cusiter replaces Colin Gregor at scrum-half and Graeme Morrison comes in at inside centre for his 150th competitive Warriors appearance.
Up front, Pat MacArthur replaces Finlay Gillies at hooker, Kellock and Richie Gray form an all-new second row partnership at the expense of Tom Ryder and Rob Verbakel, while Ryan Wilson will start in the No.8 role that Johnnie Beattie occupied against Dragons, Glasgow’s second straight win over Welsh opposition.
Of the other World Cup Warriors, Moray Low, Dougie Hall and John Barclay will be reintroduced from the bench, while Jackson, Moray Low and DTH Van der Merwe all miss out through injury. The stand-off has not quite recovered from the hamstring pull he sustained in the pool match against England, while Van der Merwe has a shoulder complaint that will be subject to further assessment. Low, meanwhile, is currently nursing a calf complaint.
Lineen continued: “It’s an absolutely massive game for us on Friday night, and a real opportunity for the guys to kick on from the wins they’ve recorded away to Cardiff and at home to Dragons in the last two games.
“I’ve some welcome selection headaches, because so many of the players who weren’t involved with the World Cup really put their hands up and impressed in the first six games of the season.
“It’s fantastic to have a good number of our leading international players back in the mix this weekend, and we’ll be looking to them to lead from the front as usual.
“Players like Tom Ryder and Troy Nathan will probably be feeling slightly sore at not starting this game, but there’s a level of competition in the camp now that will stand us in great stead over the course of what will be a long, hard season.
“Ospreys will arrive in great spirit after winning all of their games in the competition to date, and we know it’s going to take another special team performance to come away with the right result.
“But we beat them the last time we played them at Firhill [31-23 in October 2010] and we’ll be going all out to give the crowd more to cheer this week as they welcome back the World Cup boys.”
Captain Kellock is in line to take the mantle of the most individual minutes played in the competition come Friday night. Former Dragons back Gareth Wyatt currently leads on 8587 minutes, with Kellock (8536) and Cardiff Blues' Deiniol Jones (8523) in hot pursuit.
Supporters are reminded that Friday’s game kicks off at 7.05pm, slightly earlier than normal.
Tickets for the game are available from www.glasgowwarriors.org, by calling 0844 800 3490 or in person at the Greaves Sports Stores on Gordon Street and Sauchiehall Street.
Adult tickets booked online or on the phone before 3pm on Friday cost £15 (£20 on match-night). Students/senior citizens £10; under-18s £5.
GLASGOW WARRIORS TEAM TO PLAY OSPREYS IN THE RABODIRECT PRO12 AT FIRHILL ON FRIDAY 28 OCTOBER (KICK-OFF 7.05PM)
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Rob Dewey
12 Graeme Morrison
11 Colin Shaw
10 Duncan Weir
9 Chris Cusiter
1 Ryan Grant
2 Pat MacArthur
3 Mike Cusack
4 Richie Gray
5 Al Kellock (Captain)
6 Rob Harley
7 Chris Fusaro
8 Ryan Wilson
16 Dougie Hall
17 Gordon Reid
18 Ed Kalman
19 Tom Ryder
20 John Barclay
21 Colin Gregor
22 Troy Nathan
23 Federico Aramburu
Not considered due to injury: Calum Forrester (knee), Ruaridh Jackson (hamstring), Moray Low (calf), Fergus Thomson (shoulder), DTH Van der Merwe (shoulder), Jon Welsh (ankle)