Gre­gor Townsend’s back­ing Hogg to bring home the ba­con

Head coach expects full-back to find his best against Tre­viso af­ter mixed week

The Herald - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - LEWIS STU­ART

AF­TER a con­fi­dence-sap­ping dis­play in the de­feat by Northamp­ton, Gre­gor Townsend is back­ing full-back Stu­art Hogg to re­dis­cover his best form and help his side win in the rain, cold and pos­si­bly even snow forecast for this evening.

“He [Hogg] is the first to ad­mit he made a couple of mis­takes, now what mat­ters is how he gets over them,” said Townsend. “How you re­act af­ter a mis­take is im­por­tant whether it is five sec­onds af­ter you do it, five min­utes or the fol­low­ing week. There was a big change to his life when he had a baby last week but he trained well then and again this week. He will be keen to have a good game.

“He is a spe­cial player with an all-round game. He is very good in the air, that is some­thing he will be keen to show straight away. His kick­ing, his pass­ing, his run­ning are ex­cel­lent and the way the game is likely to be played with the weather we are likely to have means we need him to step up, not just as a ball car­rier, but with his kick­ing skills as well.”

On pa­per, af­ter a home de­feat in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup and a couple of sloppy matches in the league – though both pro­duced wins and bonus points – tonight’s match against Benet­ton Tre­viso is the per­fect oc­ca­sion for the en­tire team to get their con­fi­dence back. Their op­po­nents have not won since Fe­bru­ary, a run of 16 de­feats; have not won out­side Italy since May 2013 and have not won in Glas­gow since 2011, their only win in the city.

Against all those sta­tis­tics, the big is­sue is the weather, which could act as a great lev­eller since the Ital­ians base their game around a big, driv­ing pack that will aim to heap the same level of em­bar­rass­ment on the Scots as Northamp­ton man­aged last week.

The main strug­gle for Glas­gow there was in the front row and with the in­jury prob­lems at hooker still three weeks away from re­solv­ing them­selves, there is a first start for Shalva Ma­mukashvili, the newly signed Ge­or­gian, who came off the bench when Pat MacArthur broke his jaw last week. James Mal­colm, who deputised while they were wait­ing for Ma­mukashvili to ar­rive, is back in the same role.

“It is a chal­lenge,” Townsend ad­mit­ted. “It is un­usual when you have four pro­fes­sional hook­ers and all are in­jured, two long-term and two not so long-term. Shalva [Ma­mukashvili] will be much bet­ter for his game last week, he has been with us for three weeks and James [Mal­colm] has been per­form­ing really well – he is from our acad­emy but he did well against the Ed­in­burgh Acad­emy team so we are happy with the two we have now.”

On the other side of the in­jury is­sues, Alex Dun­bar is back af­ter dam­ag­ing his ster­num dur­ing his man-of-the-match per­for­mance on his come­back from a long-term knee in­jury against New­port Gwent Dragons. Af­ter miss­ing the World Cup be­cause of the knee prob­lem, he is anx­ious to make up for lost time and again, Townsend is con­fi­dent he can do it.

“Alex [Dun­bar] is an ex­cel­lent ball car­rier who fights to get through tack­les and runs ex­cel­lent lines,” said Townsend. “The tim­ing of his runs and the power, that is what makes him an ex­cel­lent player, not just at our level but at in­ter­na­tional level. He is very good de­fen­sively, he is very good post-tackle and wins turnovers. The abil­ity to play both 12 and 13 shows what a good rugby player he is.”

With those play­ers back in the squad, he has been able to tin­ker with the rest, start­ing Chris Fusaro for his 100th match for the club, a feat that will be matched by Ryan Grant when he comes off the bench. Be­yond that, a group of play­ers who made quick re­turns to Glas­gow colours af­ter the World Cup have been given time off be­fore they head into the tough de­mands of the De­cem­ber cal­en­dar, which pits them against Le­in­ster be­fore the dou­ble-head­ers against Scar­lets in Europe and Ed­in­burgh for the 1872 Cup.

Glas­gow War­riors S Hogg; T Nai­yar­a­voro, M Ben­nett, A Dun­bar, S La­mont; F Rus­sell, G Hart; G Reid, S Ma­mukashvili, M Cu­sack, T Swin­son, J Gray (C), R Har­ley, C Fusaro, A Ashe. Re­place­ments: J Mal­colm, R Grant, S Puafisi, G Peter­son, J Strauss, A Price, D Weir, S John­son. Benet­ton Tre­viso L McLean (C); A Pratichetti, T Ian­none, S Christie, S Ra­gusi; J Hay­ward, C Smylie; M Zanusso, O Gega, F Filip­petto, T Paulo, J Mon­tau­riol, M Barbini, F Minto, A Steyn. Re­place­ments: L Bigi, A De Marchi, S Manu, D Budd, M Laz­za­roni, A De Marchi, E Gori, J Am­brosini Ref­eree D Wilkin­son (Ire­land)

TAK­ING THE MIC: Townsend ad­dresses the me­dia ahead of the Ben­net­ton Tre­viso en­counter.

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