One of Glasgow Warriors’ most promising prospects will make his professional debut against Heineken Cup finalists Leinster at the RDS tomorrow night (6 May, kick-off 7.05pm) in the last game of the Magners League regular season.
Centre Mark Bennett, a member of the Warriors’ Elite Development Programme and part of the Ayr squad that reached the knock-out stages of the British Irish Cup, has been named as one of five personnel changes from the team that played the Scarlets at Firhill a fortnight ago.
Of the 18-year-old, Warriors head coach Sean Lineen said: “The lad has real talent. He’s raw, but he’s good enough, and he’s added a renewed energy to training this week. “I’ve got no worries about him physically – he’s a young lad but he’s tough. This experience will be good for him.
“It’ll be a big test but I wouldn’t put him in there unless I thought he was good enough and we’ve had a pretty good track record with the youngsters that we’ve brought through. He’s ready and I’m really excited to see what he can bring to the backline.”
Also among the changes is stand-off Duncan Weir – in for Ruaridh Jackson – who is among the front-runners for the Magners League Try of the Season award following his spectacular solo effort against the Scarlets back in October. The winner is decided by an online fans’ poll on the official Magners League website – www.magnersleague.com – and will be announced at a glittering ceremony in Kildare on Sunday evening.
“Duncan has a really strong kicking game and he runs well,” Lineen continued, “it’s just a matter of developing his shaping of the game and his understanding of the game. He’s a top lad, is willing to learn and it is great for him to go over to Dublin and play in between Chris Cusiter and Graeme Morrison against the form team in Europe and measuring himself against some quality players.”
Bennett slots in at outside centre and Peter Murchie will move to fullback as a result where he takes over from Bernardo Stortoni who drops out of the match-day squad altogether. On the right wing, Stortoni’s Argentine compatriot Federico Aramburu is given the nod ahead of Hefin O’Hare who also drops out of the travelling party.
Weir’s predecessor against the Scarlets, Ruaridh Jackson, is named among the replacements. In the forward pack, Moray Low is the only front-row survivor as Ryan Grant is re-installed ahead of Kevin Tkachuk and Fergus Thomson is preferred to Dougie Hall. The Warriors travel in search of their first ever win in Dublin whilst the home side will also be fired-up for the match as a win would guarantee them home advantage in the Magners League Play-Offs.
The last nine encounters between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day, but the size of Friday night’s task is epitomised by the fact that Leinster are unbeaten at home in the regular Magners League season since September 2008.
Assessing tomorrow night’s opposition, Lineen concluded: “It’s a massive challenge, but one which we are looking forward to. I think they are the form team in Europe, they are certainly very consistent, they have a very strong squad and they play a brand of rugby that everyone wants to aspire to.”
Glasgow Warriors starting XV:
15 Peter Murchie
14 Federico Aramburu
13 Mark Bennett*
12 Graeme Morrison CAPTAIN
11 DTH van der Merwe
10 Duncan Weir
9 Chris Cusiter
1 Ryan Grant
2 Fergus Thomson
3 Moray Low
4 Aly Muldowney
5 Tom Ryder
6 James Eddie
7 Richie Vernon
8 Johnnie Beattie
16 Dougie Hall
17 Jon Welsh
18 Kevin Tkachuk
19 Robert Harley
20 Chris Fusaro
21 Colin Gregor
22 Ruaridh Jackson
23 Peter Horne
* = Elite Development Squad member
Unavailable due to injury: John Barclay (rest), Rob Dewey (knee), Alex Dunbar (thigh), Max Evans (elbow), James Fleming (knee), Calum Forrester (knee), Richie Gray (rest), Ed Kalman (back), Alastair Kellock (rest), Murray McConnell (back), Colin Shaw (knee).