Chris Fusaro targets Ulster win to build momentum

Glasgow's  Chris Fusaro knows his side will experience a hostile atmosphere. Picture: SNS/SRU

Glasgow's Chris Fusaro knows his side will experience a hostile atmosphere. Picture: SNS/SRU

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CHRIS Fusaro has admitted that preserving Glasgow’s increasingly impressive unbeaten momentum at Ulster tonight has taken on extra significance with the Scotstoun club’s inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup campaign opener against Bath just seven days away.

Glasgow will arrive at Kingspan Stadium riding the crest of a five-game unbeaten start to the fledgling Guinness Pro12 season that has placed them on the league summit.

Glasgow will also take the field in Belfast boosted by the knowledge that, aside from Ulster’s reverse at the hands of champions Leinster back in May, when the Province were depleted to 14-men, their 13-12 victory at the old Ravenhill, on 13 September last term is the only other time the Ulstermen have been beaten on home turf in league action in the last 13 months.

Yet, despite the fact Gregor Townsend’s team also have an average try rate of just over four per game, the best in the Pro12, Fusaro has warned that much room for improvement defensively is required if Glasgow are to continue to flourish.

“Obviously, if we can win tonight it would be six wins in succession with four away from home and, ahead of a European match against a very strong Bath side, that would be very important, as well as preserving our league record,” said Fusaro.

“But you have to take it one game-at-a-time and our focus is all on Ulster tonight. If you look at Ulster’s loss at Zebre, they would have expected to win that one, but, if you lose focus, you pay in the Guinness Pro 12. In that match, Zebre were very physical in the way they approached that game and we can learn from that.

“We also know that Ulster will target the breakdown and we have prepared for that. But Bath have been outstanding in the English Premiership and we want to go into that game on the back of a positive result, so there is a lot on the line tonight.”

The flanker also admits that subduing a hostile capacity crowd of 18,000 is a priority as Glasgow attempt to make it four wins on the bounce against Ulster for the first time.

“Ulster is always one of the most hostile grounds in our league to play at and, with the new stadium now completed, it will be a tremendous atmosphere and it is up to us to try and keep the home crowd silent,” said Fusaro.

“But I think we are in for a fierce encounter. For our part, we are a very proud defensive team and we have been conceding tries that we would have hoped not to and we must improve that aspect.

“On the other hand, in attack, we have been playing and scoring well and, if we can get both these aspects of our game right, it will stand us in good stead.

“So we know we must improve on our performance against Treviso and we are determined to make sure we do that.”

Townsend has made 12 personnel changes and one positional from the starting line-up that helped run in six tries against Treviso last week.

While the most noteworthy alteration to the starting line-up is the return of Lion Sean Maitland on the right wing for his first start of the season, the replacements slot taken by Jonny Gray is also supremely heartening for Glasgow.

“Sean is back to full fitness and has had the two games with our ‘A’ team and also Ayr and it is the right time to bring him back in,” said Townsend.

Turning his attention to an encounter between the first and third-placed sides, he believes a ferocious affair is in prospect. “Your next game is always your hardest and, with Ulster having lost just once in the last 12 months at home in the league, it is certainly going to be tough.

“With both teams looking to go into their respective European campaigns on the back of a good performance, we’re expecting a high intensity match.”

Despite the increasing trend towards players suffering cheap shots after completing a pass, or, in the case of last week’s match in Italy, in which Warriors’ wing Tommy Seymour sustained a deliberate head blow from a Treviso player after he had touched down, Townsend believes the introduction of neutral officiating teams maybe desirable but difficult to deliver.

“There is an ongoing debate over referees and panels of officials. We have a unique league and it would be difficult to have teams of neutral officials going to every game.”

ULSTER

15 L Ludik

14 A Trimble

13 J Payne

12 S McCloskey

11 T Bowe

10 I Humphreys 9 P Marshall

1 A Warwick

2 R Best (c)

3 W Herbst

4 A O’Connor

5 F van der Merwe

6 R Diack

7 C Henry

8 N Williams

Subs

16 R Herring

17 C Black

18 B Ross

19 L Stevenson

20 R Wilson

21 M Heaney

22 S Olding

23 C Gilroy

GLASGOW

15 P Murchie

14 S Maitland

13 M Bennett

12 P Horne

11 T Seymour

10 F Russell

9 H Pyrgos

1 G Reid

2 F Brown

3 E Murray

4 T Swinson

5 L Nakarawa

6 R Harley

7 C Fusaro

8 J Strauss (c)

Subs

16 D Hall

17 J Yanuyanutawa

18 Z Fagerson

19 J Gray

20 A Ashe

21 N Matawalu

22 J Downey

23 S Lamont

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