Ren­nie says side are fit­ter than ever for Europe

Evening Times - - SPORT - BY KEVIN FERRIE

STA­TIS­TI­CALLY Glas­gow War­riors’ form as they head into Europe may not be quite as im­pres­sive as that of a year ago when they boasted a 100 per cent win­ning record, but once more lead­ing PRO14 Con­fer­ence A as they make the step up to the Cham­pi­ons Cup, their coach be­lieves he has seen ev­i­dence that they are bet­ter pre­pared.

In the early part of the sea­son it can be dif­fi­cult to as­sess teams on the ba­sis of PRO14 results as the Ir­ish prov­inces work their way into the sea­son. How­ever, with ac­cess to all the an­a­lyt­i­cal in­for­ma­tion that now pro­lif­er­ates in pro­fes­sional rugby, Ren­nie is hap­pier with how his side has been win­ning, with the bal­ance shift­ing more to­wards sub­stance than style.

Ob­serv­ing that too of­ten last sea­son they were claim­ing easy wins on the back of “flashy” scores, he has sought to im­prove fit­ness lev­els so they can build more pa­tiently and earn scores, rather than feel­ing forced to gam­ble when they do not come eas­ily.

“We’ve had to work harder to score, so we’ve been more pa­tient,” he said.

“We’ve scored a lot of tries that have been 12-phase plus and while it’s good to score off one or two phases, at times last year when we came up against bet­ter de­fences and hadn’t scored af­ter three or four phases we were throw­ing mir­a­cle balls to pull a rab­bit out of our back­side. So, I think we’ve been more dis­ci­plined all around. If it’s not on, we’re car­ry­ing and our ruck’s not a dis­as­ter. We try and re­cy­cle. Like I said, we’re a fit side, but if you turn the ball over af­ter two phases you don’t get to dic­tate the pace. We’re keen to make use of our con­di­tion­ing.”

Per­haps the best in­di­vid­ual ex­am­ple is the re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of Ali Price, the scrum-half Ren­nie sin­gled out last sea­son as hav­ing let his fit­ness lev­els drop while on in­ter­na­tional duty, but who has now re-es­tab­lished him­self ahead of Ge­orge Horne as the War­riors’ start­ing No 9.

“At the mo­ment one will start the other will fin­ish and both will prob­a­bly get a rea­son­able amount of game time,” said Ren­nie. “We know Ge­orge has a bril­liant sec­ond touch and that is a strength of Ali’s game too. He’s in great con­di­tion so he’s get­ting to the break­down re­ally quickly and that will be re­ally im­por­tant, so he gets the nod but there’s not much be­tween them.”

The only team with real pedi­gree that Glas­gow have met so far is two-time for­mer Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Mun­ster and, im­pres­sive as they were that night in set­ting up a 22-0 lead by the in­ter­val, the ev­i­dence is equiv­o­cal. Only two of the Mun­ster backs and two of the for­wards who started that night will do so again when they meet Ex­eter Chiefs in their Cham­pi­ons Cup opener, while the sec­ond half was a very dif­fer­ent game af­ter Mun­ster brought on some of their lead­ing lights. The Ir­ish side ‘won’ that half 10-3, but Ren­nie be­lieves that pos­i­tives can still be taken.

“The point is that they had all the ball in the sec­ond half and scored [a try] once,” he noted. “So, it was a real qual­ity de­fen­sive per­for­mance in the sec­ond half. It was made ref­er­ence that they were miss­ing two or three play­ers but so were we. I thought it was a re­ally dom­i­nant per­for­mance with and with­out the ball against a side that ob­vi­ously de­serves a bit of healthy re­spect, but we knew that day that we had to be at our best to be com­pet­i­tive and it’s the same this week and the same sort of mind­set in my opin­ion.”

Their de­fence will be thor­oughly tested to­mor­row by the 2015/16 and 2016/17 Cham­pi­ons Cup win­ners and Ren­nie ac­knowl­edged that fur­ther im­prove­ment is re­quired.

“We will have to de­fend well,” he said.“Our li­ne­out has been go­ing well. Our de­fen­sive li­ne­out has been go­ing well too. The way to nul­lify them is to stop them at source ob­vi­ously. It’s eas­ier said than done per­haps. We will have to de­fend bet­ter than we have done in re­cent weeks, by which I mean tackle but we have a side on the field that will chop them and we are go­ing to have to try and slow their ball down. That is im­por­tant to give us a chance to get some line speed and give us a chance to get bod­ies on bod­ies. If we are pas­sive and they get in be­hind us and the big men are charg­ing onto it, it’s hard to slow down. The qual­ity of our tack­ling will be mas­sive for us.”

Glas­gow War­riors coach Dave Ren­nie is happy his side don’t have to gam­ble for tries

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