Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith believes his cautious approach towards rehabilitating injured players will pay a dividend this afternoon when Rory Darge is finally let loose against the Lions in Johannesburg after four and a half months side-lined with an ankle injury.

The openside flanker could push his way into Scotland contention for the final two rounds of the Six Nations if he produces a performance somewhere close to the levels he consistently hit as a breakthrough star for Gregor Townsend’s side last season.

Scotland are well stocked in back-row options at the moment, but Darge’s work-rate, jackaling ability and powerful carrying means he will be a contender for selection to face Ireland in a fortnight’s time if he does hit the ground running today.

“Our strategy is that once you are ready to play you are still two weeks away from being selected,” explained Smith. “With all our injured players, we don’t want to rush them back and run the risk of having a recurring injury. Also, our players are very well conditioned at the moment so even if you feel ready, you might be physically behind.

“Rory has spent the last two weeks working really hard on the rugby conditioning side of things and getting himself back into the detail of our team set-up.  I think we’ll see it was worthwhile waiting for as long as we did.”

Meanwhile, Eli Cavan – who plays for Ayrshire Bulls in the semi-pro Super6 competition – has also been handed his Warriors debut on the wing.

“We brought Eli in after the end of the Super6 Championship at the end of October and he’s trained really well with us,” revealed Smith. “He played for our A team in a training match against Scotland under-20s last month, scoring three tries, and it’s an area of the team that we want to broaden the number of players available to us.

“He might be an unknown to a lot of people but hopefully he can gain an opportunity now to become a full-time professional. He absolutely merits this and we’re very confident about putting him in the team.”

Scotland prop Allan Dell is also set to make his debut for the club off the bench after recovering from a calf injury sustained soon after he moved to the club from London Irish last summer.

“He had a repetitive reaction to the injury during his recovery period, but he was ready to play four or five weeks ago, and now the opportunity has come his way and I think he’s super-prepared and we are all looking forward to seeing him out there,” said Smith.

“Oli Kebble has also been back fit the last two weeks, and Jamie Bhatti is doing very well with Scotland right now, so there is going to be good competition in that role going forward.”

Glasgow Warriors (v Lions at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday @ 2.15pm UK time): J McKay; C Forbes, S McDowall©, S Johnson, E Cavan; T Jordan, J Dobie; N McBeth, J Matthews, L Sordoni, L Bean, S Cummings, A Miller, R Darge, S Vailanu, J. Substitutes: A Fraser, A Dell, S Berghan, J Du Preez, E Ferrie, T Gordon, S Kennedy, D Weir.