Glasgow Warriors’ bid for a successful RaboDirect PRO12 season begins at Ravenhill on Friday night, when they take on Ulster in their first competitive match of the new campaign.
New head coach Gregor Townsend and his men are determined to build on the positive form the side showed last term in reaching the tournament semi-finals for the second time in three years.
The opening night card pits them against a team who made the Heineken Cup final three short months ago, but the Warriors travel with confidence, having won five of their last six regular season RaboDirect PRO12 games and seen off the Northern Irish outfit the last time the sides clashed, at Firhill last November.
Townsend’s selection for the game sees him endorse a core of players who contributed heavily to the club’s consistent form last season.
Henry Pyrgos and Duncan Weir team up in a lively half-back pairing, with experience behind the scrum being provided by the man with the most all-time Warriors appearances, centre Graeme Morrison, and returning winger Sean Lamont.
With Stuart Hogg nursing an ankle injury, Peter Murchie gets the opportunity to reprise his excellent 2012/13 showings at full-back, while Tommy Seymour (pictured) is rewarded for his productive shifts in the pre-season games against Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs with a start at the home of his former club.
Up front, Gordon Reid, Finlay Gillies and Mike Cusack team up in the front row, with the back-row seeing a welcome return of the breakaway unit of Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Ryan Wilson that served the Warriors so well for much of the campaign before the No.8 suffered an untimely knee injury.
The make-up of the Glasgow bench bodes well for game-changing options, with six capped players among the replacements: props Ryan Grant and Moray Low, hooker Dougie Hall, back-rower John Barclay, scrum-half Chris Cusiter and stand-off Ruaridh Jackson.
Townsend told www.glasgowwarriors.org: “All the players and coaches are massively excited about the season getting underway and the opportunity it brings to reap the benefits of the hard work everyone has put in over the past three months.
“Playing Ulster away from home in a passionate environment like Ravenhill is certainly a big challenge, but one that the players will find inspiring rather than intimidating.
“We haven’t won there for almost three years, but we only need look at results and performances like the win over Leinster at the RDS last season to know we have the ability and mentality to do the business when it counts away from home.
“We’ve picked a match-day squad of 23 that we believe will give us the best opportunity to win the game.
“It’s testament to the number of guys who have made a strong case for selection in pre-season that players of the calibre of DTH van der Merwe and Angus Macdonald are not involved this week, but they know they’ll have a big role to play over the coming weeks and months.
“We’re particularly pleased with the quality of the bench we’re able to field on Friday night. It’s fantastic to be able to welcome back the bulk of our international guys, and also to have James Eddie and Peter Horne available after long-term injury.
“One of the key strengths of this group is their togetherness and willingness to fight for each other. We’ll need those qualities to be to the fore again on Friday night, as well as making sure we’re tactically spot on throughout the game.
“It’s a very tough opening assignment, but we have confidence in each other and in how we want to play.”
A special screening of Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 opener will take place in Waxy O’Connor’s on West George Street in Glasgow city centre.
Representatives of the XVIth Warrior, a new supporters group, will be present to provide information on the group and look forward to the first game at Scotstoun Stadium, against Scarlets on Friday 7 September.
GLASGOW WARRIORS TEAM TO PLAY ULSTER AT RAVENHILL IN THE RABODIRECT PRO12 ON FRIDAY 31 AUGUST (KICK-OFF 7.05PM, LIVE ON BBC ALBA)
15 Peter Murchie
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Alex Dunbar
12 Graeme Morrison
11 Sean Lamont
10 Duncan Weir
9 Henry Pyrgos
1 Gordon Reid
2 Finlay Gillies
3 Mike Cusack
4 Tom Ryder
5 Al Kellock (CAPTAIN)
6 Rob Harley
7 Chris Fusaro
8 Ryan Wilson
16 Dougie Hall
17 Moray Low
18 Ryan Grant
19 James Eddie
20 John Barclay
21 Chris Cusiter
22 Ruaridh Jackson
23 Peter Horne
Not considered for selection due to injury: Stuart Hogg (ankle), Ed Kalman (back), Rory Lamont (leg), Viliami Ma’afu (ankle), Pat MacArthur (foot), Tim Swinson (face), Jon Welsh (shoulder)