GLASGOW skipper Al Kellock has urged Warriors to win their first RaboDirect Pro12 title for the team-mates left behind by head coach Gregor Townsend.
The Scotstoun boss has named the 23-man squad which will face Leinster at the RDS in Dublin on Saturday but once again left out two of their biggest names, full-back Stuart Hogg and stand-off Duncan Weir.
Neither was involved in the narrow 16-15 win over Munster in the semi-final, but captain Kellock admits he feels a sense of responsibility to the Scotland duo and the rest of the Warriors squad not picked for the biggest game in the club’s history.
He said: “There are 23 guys potentially getting the chance to play in this game. But there will be a lot of guys sitting in the stand who have also given so much to get us here.
“So the guys on the park have got a responsibility to win it for them as well.
“There are a lot of lads who could have sat in the boss’s office and argued that they deserved to start. We have 40-odd guys in our squad who could back up that kind of statement with the performances they have put in.
“Everyone was very nervous when it came to selection but credit to the guys who were not picked because they have really helped us with the preparations. Now we need to do our part to pay them back.”
Despite often tinkering with his side this season, Townsend has seen his side rack up nine successive wins on their way to the final. He has made two personnel changes ahead of the clash with the reigning champions after Peter Horne was recalled in place of Mark Bennett at centre and Gordon Reid for Ryan Grant at prop.
But Townsend admits picking a side for such an important game took its toll on him.
“This is a reward for the players who played so well in the semi-final against Munster but it was a tough decision,” he said. “They all are.
“I know people have spoken about full-back. Peter Murchie is playing some great stuff but Stuart has trained well and in the end it was a close call and Peter got the nod. This is the hardest part of the job. I really feel for the players not involved. I know they would do a very good job if they were chosen, but with results going so well – nine wins in a row – even if you are playing well it is hard to get into this side.
“But making those decisions is part of the job. I looked at each player in training, what they have done in past games and what they can bring tactically each weekend. My overriding goal is to pick a team that will win the game. It’s not easy but it has to be done.”
Tonight’s clash will also mark the final game of Leinster and Ireland talisman Brian O’Driscoll. The 35-year-old hopes to bow out by winning a fourth Pro12 crown but Townsend has warned his team not to hand the 133-cap centre a fairytale ending to his career.
He said: “Leinster are a quality side full of British Lions. There will be a bit of emotion on their side with a couple of guys – Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen – retiring. For Brian, I was pleased to see him get that Six Nations title this year because it is down to all the hard work he’s put in over the last 15 years.
“It’s amazing to think that he got his first cap in 1999. I played against him in 2000 and he was the best player on the field. All these years later he is still playing excellent rugby.
“We realise it’s a great occasion to be involved in his last game but I’m more concerned about what he will do as a player and how we can stop him than the other stuff. However, we believe have built up a lot of momentum and there will be everything to play for in the final.”