Glasgow Warriors have the chance to take another step towards the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs when they face Aironi at Firhill tomorrow night (kick-off 7.35pm).
The game is the first part of a vital home double header, which also sees Cardiff Blues visit Scotland’s number one city next Friday.
Having claimed a compelling victory on the road at Ospreys in their last outing, the Warriors currently occupy the last of the four play-off positions as they prepare for the final five regular season games.
Sean Lineen’s men won the first clash with Aironi 18-6 in Viadana last November, while reigning European champions Leinster are the only team to take points off them at Firhill in the RaboDirect PRO12 since last September.
Overall, the Warriors have lost only one of their last 13 matches in the competition, but a cautionary tale is provided by the memory of the 15-13 loss they suffered in their previous home tussle with an Italian side, Benetton Treviso.
Lineen told www.glasgowwarriors.org: “We’ve worked hard to put ourselves in a competitive position at what is now very much the business end of the season.
“We have to make the most of the opportunity that’s in front of us by continuing to show the character, appetite and fantastic team ethic that have got us to this point.
“The players and staff are fully focussed on the task in hand and absolutely determined to finish the season in the strongest possible fashion, starting with what will be another hugely tough game against Aironi. They're coming off a great result against Munster, which underlines what a genuine threat they are.”
With a number of the club’s Scotland contingent on a recovery week, Lineen’s starting line-up for the game shows four changes from that which ran out at the Liberty Stadium.
In the backs, Tommy Seymour comes in on the wing in place of Colin Shaw, who sustained a jaw injury in the Ospreys game after scoring a crucial try. Stand-off Duncan Weir (pictured), meanwhile, gets the chance to regain pole position in the RaboDirect PRO12 points scorer table – he currently trails Ospreys’ Dan Biggar by four.
The two switches in the pack see Nick Campbell step in for Al Kellock in the boiler house, while Mike Cusack makes a welcome return in the front row. The tight-head prop, an integral part of the Warriors pack, hasn’t featured for the club since injuring an ankle in the New Year’s Day derby win over Edinburgh Rugby.
The Aironi game holds extra significance for three other front-rowers. Hooker Dougie Hall will captain Glasgow for the first time, Ryan Grant notches up his 50th RaboDirect PRO12 appearance, and Moray Low returns to the fray for the first time since sustaining a knee injury against Scarlets in January.
Low today signed a two-year contract extension, tying him to the Warriors until at least the end of May 2014.
Lineen said: “We’re again very happy with the side we’re sending out on Friday. The pack, to a man, were outstanding against Ospreys, and with Mike Cusack back in the mix, I’ve every confidence that will be the case again this week.
“It’s great for Dougie Hall to have the captaincy – he’s vastly experienced, he’s just signed a new contract and he’s hungry to achieve success with the Warriors.
“Duncan Weir has had a very positive season and, having had a taste of international rugby, he’s itching to get back out there and keep doing well for us. We’re looking forward to seeing how he teams up with the centres, Fede and Alex, both of whom were terrific last time out in Swansea.
“It’s going to be another tough, physical battle, but we know what’s required and the guys are primed to deliver.”
Students can celebrate the end of term at the Aironi game with our super saver £5 tickets – half the normal price.
The £5 tickets are available via www.glasgowwarriors.org, by calling 0844 800 3490, in person at the Gordon Street and Sauchiehall Street branches of Greaves Sports, our official retail partners, and at Firhill on the night.
Adult tickets bought in advance online or over the phone cost just £15 – a £5 saving on the match-night price.
GLASGOW WARRIORS TEAM TO PLAY AIRONI IN THE RABODIRECT PRO12 AT FIRHILL ON FRIDAY 23 MARCH (KICK-OFF 7.35PM, LIVE ON BBC ALBA)
15 Peter Murchie
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Alex Dunbar
12 Federico Aramburu
11 David Lemi
10 Duncan Weir
9 Henry Pyrgos
1 Ryan Grant
2 Dougie Hall (CAPTAIN)
3 Mike Cusack
4 Nick Campbell
5 Tom Ryder
6 Calum Forrester
7 Chris Fusaro
8 Ryan Wilson
16 Pat MacArthur
17 Gordon Reid
18 Moray Low
19 Rob Verbakel
20 Johnnie Beattie
21 Murray McConnell
22 Scott Wight
23 Troy Nathan
Not considered for selection due to injury: Rob Dewey (shoulder), Ed Kalman (neck), Rory Lamont (leg), Colin Shaw (jaw), Fergus Thomson (shoulder), DTH van der Merwe (shoulder)