Al Kellock has strong case for retaining his place

Al Kellock rises above everyone else to win lineout ball against Glasgow. Picture: SNS
Al Kellock rises above everyone else to win lineout ball against Glasgow. Picture: SNS
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AL KELLOCK’s outstanding man-of-the-match performance against Edinburgh in Glasgow’s 16-6 first leg 1872 Cup victory over Edinburgh made a strong case for the Warriors’ skipper to retain his second row place for Friday’s second leg at BT Murrayfield.

The 33-year-old entered the white-hot heat of derby day battle with just 30 A game minutes under his belt in the last month, after seemingly having slipped down the pecking order in the battle for one of the two second row places.

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In recent weeks the Jonny Gray/Leone Nakarawa combination has been the favourite starting lock partnership, with Tim Swinson tending to get the nod as the replacement option.

But with 33-year-old Kellock claiming a staggering nine balls from the Warriors lineout throw-in and also pilfering one of Edinburgh’s, failing to miss a single tackle and clearly galvanising the Glasgow pack with his outstanding leadership, Warriors’ assistant coach Kenny Murray reckons “Big Al” may have done enough to retain his place on Friday night at BT Murrayfield.

“Al gave us exactly what we expected from him, he didn’t miss one single tackle, his line-out work was exemplary and, of course, his leadership was outstanding,” said Murray.

He continued: “But obviously one of Al’s key attributes is his lineout play. He runs our lineout very well and he reads the opposition’s very well and for him getting the 30-minute run-out in the ‘A’ game was very good for Al.

“But I don’t think you can say he has dropped down the pecking order. We have four world-class locks and it is just about giving yourself the best possible chance to play.

“Jonny (Gray) has been week-in, week-out outstanding for us and whether you are the captain or not you have to earn your place but Al certainly justified his selection at the weekend.

“But we are very lucky in that our second row at the moment is quality right now with Jonny Gray and Leone Nakarawa in there, but not many people have mentioned Tim Swinson and he was outstanding for us on Saturday.

“He carried the ball more than any other player, his tackling was excellent and with the mix we have in the second row we are just very, very lucky.”

But as Murray revealed the disallowed second-half Niko Matawalu try, which referee George Clancy deemed to have been from a forward pass from DTH van der Merwe and would have given Glasgow a decisive lead to take with them along the M8 for Friday’s reprise, is still an irritation at Scotstoun.

Murray said: “Try or no try depending on which way you look at it, yeah, we have looked at it in our review and in my opinion it looks like a clear-cut try.

“From the hand position it looks like a try and from Niko’s position he was maybe a bit ahead of the ball while the referee and his assistant were both viewing it from behind.

“The TMO has been brought in to review incidents like that, which have a huge bearing on games and it was just very disappointing it was not used in this instance.

“I watch a lot of rugby, Scottish, English and French and some referees do make a habit of going to it all the time (TMO) but I do feel that when you have an almost certain try being scored then you should go back for that.

“That try was a game-changer and so it should have been reviewed. It is all right making the right or wrong decision but when you have the option of the TMO there then why not use it?”

With the intensity of the battle to claim domestic supremacy at times threatening to boil over in the first leg, which was blighted by several nasty spats, Murray has revealed Glasgow are determined to retain cool heads at the national stadium.

“We are going to BT Murrayfield, it is the home of Scottish rugby and it brings a lot of emotion out in the guys and we will have to manage that,” admitted Murray.

The Glasgow assistant coach continued: “But what we talk about to our guys is winning that first major trophy and becoming the first Scottish club to win a competition and that is our driving force.

“So we focus on the performance and try not to get involved in the whole emotion of it. Obviously if we win the 1872 Cup, then that is great but first and foremost it is about performance and if we get that right everything else will take care of itself.

“But obviously we were pleased to win and it is great to have the victory from the first leg to take with us to BT Murrayfield for the second.”

But Murray admits that there is still plenty of room for improvement against an Edinburgh side he believes will up the physical ante in three days’ time.

Murray said: “I thought our physicality was very good, particularly in defence, where our line speed was also excellent.

“But we can improve on our work at the breakdown. Edinburgh were really physical and they made sure there were a lot of major collisions and we will need to combat that. So there were things we can improve and things we were good at. But going to BT Murrayfield I think they will look to put more pressure on us in terms of their kick-chase, which has been a key attribute of theirs this year.

“So they will look to do that again and put our back three under real pressure.

“Also their driving maul, this time last year they had a really good strong driving maul and they will want to bring that into play again on Friday. While in terms of winning the collisions they will want to be even more physical and we will need to lift that aspect of our play particularly at the breakdown.”

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