Gregor Townsend’s backing Hogg to bring home the bacon
Head coach expects full-back to find his best against Treviso after mixed week
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.