Gregor Townsend defiant in face of ‘real challenging’ group

Alex Dunbar in action during Glasgows 22-5 win over Racing 92, a victory which Gregor Townsend believes will boost his side. Picture: SNS

Alex Dunbar in action during Glasgows 22-5 win over Racing 92, a victory which Gregor Townsend believes will boost his side. Picture: SNS

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Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend believes he has “the squad and the experience to do well in Europe” but admits the Champions Cup group they have landed for next season is “a real challenging one”.

The Warriors were drawn in Pool 1 yesterday alongside star-studded French giants Racing 92 for the second successive season as well as two sides who each have a couple of European titles to their name – Leicester Tigers and Munster.

Racing finished runners-up in the competition to Saracens in Lyon last month and boast a star-studded squad led by All Blacks legend Dan Carter. There could also be a swift reunion with Scotstoun favourite Leone Nakarawa, who departed at the end of the season and is understood to be Racing bound, though the 
Paris club have yet to confirm that he’ll be their player.

Glasgow, who will be aiming once again to get out of the group stage in Europe for the first time, faced Racing in their pool last term, losing in Paris but defeating the French side at Kilmarnock. The away match was re-arranged after being postponed due to the Paris terror attacks, while the return was moved to Rugby Park due to Scotstoun being waterlogged.

“It is tough,” said Townsend after the draw. “You are going to be facing the best teams in Europe come what may. You are going to get one or two of the best teams in your pool. To have three creates a bit of excitement and shows the challenge we are up against.

“To get Munster, the team in tier four, the former champions, a team that always plays well in Europe, that is the level of our challenge this year.”

The fixtures will be announced in the coming weeks, with the first round taking place on the weekend of 13/14/15/16 October followed by round two a week later, with the final to be played at 
BT Murrayfield next May.

On that Racing rematch, Townsend added: “They have some outstanding players. We know how tough a challenge it will be but the fact we have been there before… we did learn a lot between the away game and the home game so we have to be at our best to 
beat them.”

Racing had already qualified
for the knockout stage and rested the likes of Carter, while Glasgow were all but out when the Warriors beat the French team 22-5 at Rugby Park in January and, despite those caveats, Townsend believes they can take confidence from that result.

“They may not have had their best team over but they still had a very good group of players on the pitch that day,” he said. “We can take confidence from that win. We played well.”

On Leicester, Townsend said: “They have a real tradition in the game, massive support, they have really done well in Europe. They have good structures. We will be playing against one of the powerhouses of English rugby.”

Munster are familiar opponents and were the opponents when Glasgow won the 2015 Guinness Pro12 final, but Townsend cautioned: “They always take the intensity up a couple of levels in Europe. At home they are like what Liverpool [FC] are like in Europe. The crowds come out in bigger numbers.

“We have the squad and the experience to do well in Europe, despite this group being a real challenging one.”

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