Make or break for Glasgow

Rugby union:

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - Sport -

Gregor Townsend con­cedes he will have failed to trans­form Glasgow into a true Euro­pean power if he can­not find a way to end their Cham­pi­ons Cup hoodoo this month.

The War­riors coach guided the Scot­stoun out­fit to a Pro12 ti­tle 18 months ago but be­lieves Europe’s premier com­pe­ti­tion is the true mea­sure of suc­cess.

Yet Glasgow have never made it past the group stage.

Now Townsend, who will quit War­riors this sum­mer af­ter five years to take up the reins as Scot­land coach, has one last chance to break new ground.

With two pool matches left, start­ing with group lead­ers Mun­ster at home to­day, Glasgow re­main on course for the quar­ter­fi­nals. But if they slip up, Townsend con­cedes his team will once again have to ac­cept be­ing tagged among the com­pe­ti­tion’s also-rans.

He said: “I be­lieve if we re­ally want to class our­selves as one of the big­gest teams in Europe, we have to do well in the Cham­pi­ons Cup. We have to get to quar­ter­fi­nals and semi-fi­nals and that’s the chal­lenge we have over the next two week­ends. Hope­fully things go well and that is where

“If we want to class our­selves as one of the big­gest teams, we have to do well in the Cham­pi­ons Cup”

we find our­selves months.”

Glasgow sit se­cond in Pool 1 but Townsend knows his side can take noth­ing for granted.

They trail Mun­ster by three points but lead third-placed Le­ices­ter by five. How­ever, the Tigers are likely to take max­i­mum points against a Racing 92 out­fit which has ef­fec­tively thrown in the towel, mean­ing Glasgow’s fi­nal group game at Welford Road should prove de­ci­sive.

Vic­tory this week­end would sig­nif­i­cantly strengthen Townsend’s hand.

How­ever, he warned: “Mun­ster are prob­a­bly the best team in Europe right now on form.

“We haven’t won four pool games in one sea­son since I’ve been here and nor­mally you need at least four to get out of your sec­tion. If we are able to pro­duce that win then we will just have to look at the other re­sults and see where we are ahead of Le­ices­ter next week.”

Townsend will send out a team packed one to 15 with play­ers boast­ing Scot­land caps to face the Red Army af­ter re­call­ing full back Stu­art Hogg, front row­ers Fraser Brown and Zan­der Fager­son in a cou­ple of and flanker Rob Har­ley. How­ever, Scot­stoun coach Townsend con­cedes he is re­ly­ing on his big guns to fire straight and true.

“The 23 we have out to­mor­row night is our best group of play­ers and they are re­ally fo­cused for this game,” he said.

“When we play the big games – whether it be the Pro12 or the Cham­pi­ons Cup – we have to put out our best team.

“We have guys like Henry Pyr­gos and Si­mone Favaro out in­jured. It would have been great to have ev­ery­body avail­able but we are very con­fi­dent with the squad we have got that we’ll do very well.”

Glasgow have lost both of their pre­vi­ous en­coun­ters this term.

Their ear­lier Cham­pi­ons Cup show­down in Oc­to­ber came just a week af­ter the death of Mun­ster coach An­thony Fo­ley and War­riors were swept away as a wave of emo­tion cir­cled round Thomond Park, car­ry­ing the 14-man hosts to a 38-17 vic­tory. with Mun­ster

But Townsend reck­ons it will be Mun­ster who are left quak­ing this time as the Scot­stoun faith­ful pre­pare to turn up the vol­ume.

“Our sup­port­ers are mag­nif­i­cent,” said the War­riors coach. “This is an un­com­fort­able place to play for the op­po­si­tion be­cause of the noise that is gen­er­ated by our sup­port­ers.

“It’s a great place for us to play, though, not only be­cause of the noise but be­cause of the con­nec­tion the play­ers and sup­port­ers have.

“It’s great to see all the dif­fer­ent songs the sup­port­ers in the East stand sing, es­pe­cially when the op­po­si­tion sub­sti­tutes are warm­ing up – last week it was the Hokey Cokey.

“As coaches, we sit and say what a bril­liant at­mos­phere. Satur­day will be a spe­cial at­mos­phere and that all helps to drive the play­ers for­ward.”

ED­IN­BURGH OPT FOR EX­PE­RI­ENCE FOR HAR­LEQUINS TIE

DIF­FER­ENT BALL GAME: Stu­art Hogg has a kick­about dur­ing train­ing, while , inset, Gregor Townsend is all smiles

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