Bennett On As Townsend Picks Scots For Parade

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend has handed a first start during this period of his association with Warriors to on-loan centre Mark Bennett as the team travel to Wales to face Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade in the RaboDirect PRO12 on Friday night.

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Bennett, who arrived in Glasgow from Clermont Auvergne on loan in November, put in a man-of-the-match performance for Scotland under-20 against Italy in the RBS 6 Nations last weekend, and will cap his week with a start at outside centre.

Fourteen of the fifteen starters for Glasgow Warriors on Friday night have played representative rugby for Scotland at age-grade, A, sevens or full international level.

The Warriors have been bolstered by the return of Duncan Weir, Henry Pyrgos and Pat MacArthur to the starting line-up, each having returned from Scotland duty to play for their pro club this weekend.

Gregor Townsend, Warriors head coach, said: "Mark has had to wait a little while to make his first appearance since arriving in November but the opportunities have been limited so it's great that he can start in Newport on Friday and get a chance to show what he can do.

"I"ve been impressed by his attitude since he got here and he knows it was simply a case of him working hard to improve in every training session and earn his starting place. I"ve watched him closely at training and when playing for Stirling County and I believe he is in top form. Mark rightly got the plaudits for his Scotland under-20 performance last week and I"m looking forward to him having a similar impact on Friday night.

"We"re in the middle of another good run of form with four Rabo wins in a row but there are only five points covering positions from second to sixth so it's hugely important we stay focused on what we do well and what we can control. _

"If we do that, then we put ourselves in a very good position going into the last half dozen games."

The last time the Warriors faced the Dragons, at Scotstoun Stadium, it was Glasgow who ran out winners with two tries from Tommy Seymour and a memorable 30-metre sprint from Gordon Reid among the highlights in a bonus-point victory.

The last time Warriors suffered defeat in Wales was to the Scarlets, a 14-16 reverse back in January 2012, while the Dragons haven't beaten Warriors since September 2010.

Along with the re-introduction of Weir and Pyrgos to the half-back roles, Townsend is also able to recall DTH van der Merwe who has recovered from a head injury.

Byron McGuigan, who registered his first two tries for the Warriors in last week's win over Zebre, moves to the right wing to accommodate the return of the Canadian flyer.

Peter Murchie and Alex Dunbar, also try scorers last weekend, retain their spots in the starting XV.

All three of the front row have trained with Scotland in the past few weeks with Jon Welsh starting at tight-head and Gordon Reid and Pat MacArthur forming a familiar partnership at loose-head and hooker respectively.

Tim Swinson and Tom Ryder are in the engine room and, in a mobile and aggressive back row, James Eddie replaces Josh Strauss to start alongside Ryan Wilson and John Barclay.

On the bench, there is the mercurial threat of Fijian Niko Matawalu, last week's man of the match, with Elite Development Players Fraser Thomson and Scotland under-20 captain Jonny Gray waiting in the wings alongside Scott Wight and powerhouse prop replacements Moray Low and Ofa Fainga"anuku.

Townsend commented: "We were obviously a bit rusty for the first half against Zebre and were punished twice for mistakes but it was very pleasing to see the response and the way we got back into the game.

'there have been numerous demands made of this squad, particularly around the internationals but I"m proud of the strength of the squad and the ability we have to bounce back from setbacks and score tries. We had a great impact from the second half replacements last week and we have a strong bench available to use this week.

'there was some very good team play on Sunday and I hope to see us build on that when we take on the Dragons."

Glasgow Warriors team to play Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on Friday 15 February, (kick-off 7.05pm) Live on BBC Alba.

15 Peter Murchie
14 Byron McGuigan
13 Mark Bennett
12 Alex Dunbar
11 DTH van der Merwe
10 Duncan Weir
9 Henry Pyrgos

1 Gordon Reid
2 Pat MacArthur
3 Jon Welsh
4 Tim Swinson
5 Tom Ryder
6 James Eddie
7 John Barclay
8 Ryan Wilson (Captain)

16 Gerwyn Price
17 Ofa Fainga"anuku
18 Moray Low
19 Jonny Gray
20 Josh Strauss
21 Niko Matawalu
22 Scott Wight
23 Fraser Thomson

Not available for selection due to injury:
Michael Cusack (shoulder), Chris Cusiter(shoulder), Chris Fusaro (groin) and Finlay Gillies (neck)