McLean returns for crucial La Rochelle clash
Scotland winger Rufus McLean will make his Heineken Champions Cup debut in tomorrow’s pivotal encounter with La Rochelle at Scotstoun, as Head Coach Danny Wilson makes four changes to the starting XV for the meeting with last season’s runners-up.
Victory would put the Warriors in the strongest possible position to claim a place in the last-16 of Europe’s premier club competition, with the top eight in both Pool A and Pool B qualifying for the knockout stages.
Fraser Brown takes on the captaincy as he returns to the starting line-up, leading the side out for the first time since October’s victory over the Emirates Lions at Scotstoun.
The hooker is joined in the front-row by Oli Kebble and Zander Fagerson, the latter making his sixth consecutive start at tight-head for Wilson’s side.
Richie Gray will make his comeback from injury in the second-row, partnering Scotland colleague Scott Cummings in the engine room for tomorrow’s clash.
An unchanged back-row sees Matt Fagerson – having made three line breaks and crossed for a try last weekend – and fellow Scotland call-up Rory Darge line up either side of Jack Dempsey, who leads all players in the Heineken Champions Cup for carries with 43 to date.
Ali Price and Ross Thompson continue their partnership in the half-backs, with Thompson’s haul of 30 points in the competition seeing him sitting third in the points-scoring charts after the opening three rounds.
Similarly, the Scotland duo of Sam Johnson and Sione Tuipulotu combine once more in the centres, having been selected as the starting midfield combination for each of the club’s Heineken Champions Cup matches to date this season.
McLean’s inclusion in the back three is the only alteration to the back-line ahead of this weekend, with Kyle Steyn and Josh McKay rounding out the starting XV.
Scotland tight-head Simon Berghan is in line for his first appearance since the opening match of the 2021/22 season away to Ulster this weekend, after recovering from injury to take his place amongst the replacements for tomorrow’s clash.
George Turner and Jamie Bhatti rotate to the bench after starting at Sandy Park last time out, with Kiran McDonald doing likewise after a try-scoring display down in Devon.
Club co-captain Ryan Wilson wears the number 20 jersey after making his 200th appearance in Glasgow colours last weekend, as George Horne and Duncan Weir continue as the replacement half-backs.
The replacements are rounded out by Ollie Smith, who – like McLean – would make his Heineken Champions Cup debut should he come on to the field at Scotstoun tomorrow night.
Speaking following selection, Head Coach Wilson told glasgowwarriors.org: “We’re looking forward to being back at Scotstoun tomorrow night.
“Having been in the lead 17-14 after 50 minutes we were really disappointed with the final 30 minutes of the game against Exeter. We have the opportunity to put that right on Saturday night against La Rochelle.
“It’s great to welcome back Rufus McLean, Richie Gray and Simon Berghan into the 23.
“La Rochelle are a powerful team with a quality player base and one of the big European team over recent years.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge of welcoming them to Scotstoun.”
Glasgow Warriors team to face La Rochelle at Scotstoun, Saturday 22 January, kick-off 8pm, live on BT Sport 2. You can also follow all the action as it happens in our Live Match Centre at glasgowwarriors.org.
1. Oli Kebble (66)
2. Fraser Brown (C) (115)
3. Zander Fagerson (107)
4. Scott Cummings (84)
5. Richie Gray (70)
6. Matt Fagerson (78)
7. Rory Darge (14)
8. Jack Dempsey (9)
9. Ali Price (103)
10. Ross Thompson (25)
11. Rufus McLean (15)
12. Sam Johnson (82)
13. Sione Tuipulotu (11)
14. Kyle Steyn (41)
15. Josh McKay (5)
16. George Turner (70)
17. Jamie Bhatti (57)
18. Simon Berghan (1)
19. Kiran McDonald (42)
20. Ryan Wilson (200)
21. George Horne (74)
22. Duncan Weir (115)
23. Ollie Smith (9)
Unavailable for selection: Hamish Bain, Rob Harley, Sean Kennedy, Tom Lambert, Ally Miller.
We can’t wait to have you, The Warrior Nation, back with us tomorrow evening.