GREGOR Townsend has revealed that Glasgow’s hopes of building on last season’s gallant run to the PRO12 final rest on three bristling forms of motivation.
The Glasgow head coach accepts that the painful hangover left by his side’s 34-12 defeat by Leinster, who ironically provide Glasgow with their opening league opposition in the newly-garlanded Guinness PRO12 at Scotstoun, on 6 September, still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of his Warriors.
Glasgow’s inability to escape the pool section of the Heineken Cup is another powerful driver to progress in the new campaign when the tournament is re-launched as the European Rugby Champions’ Cup. Yet it is the consistency with which the Scotstoun side have been knocking at the door of a major success that has bolstered the former Scotland playmaker’s belief that this season can be crowned in glory.
With tomorrow’s opening friendly outing against English Aviva Premiership stalwarts Harlequins offering an enticing opportunity to gauge his team’s preparation for the new competitive campaign that follows 14 days later, Townsend remains resolute that his men are ready for the challenges that await them.
“We know the challenges will be tougher this season but we will embrace them,” he said. “The fact that we put so much work in to get to the PRO12 final last season is a plus as we know what is required to get there.
“We also want to make an impression in Europe this season and that is another huge driver for us at Glasgow. We have an excellent pool with Bath, Toulouse and Montpellier and that is all very exciting. So we very much want to be the first Glasgow side to make it out of the pools phase.
“As a team, a club and individuals, we all want to get better, right across the park. Of course, we kick the domestic season off with a repeat of last season’s PRO12 final against Leinster, so the motivation is there, every where you look, to help us kick on from last season.”
Townsend had no qualms about underlining the stubborn streak in the Glasgow dressing room with which the Warriors will once again shoulder the main burden of Scottish expectancy in both domestic and continental competition.
He said: “Obviously we have made semi-finals and then the final last time around, so we have been knocking on the door now for a while and, as a group, we are very hungry to go one better. The pain of our defeat at the hands of Leinster in the PRO12 final is also still recent enough to motivate us.
“So, whatever way you look at it, our determination to make this the best season it can be for Glasgow Warriors and our supporters is tremendous.”
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea has included most of his big hitters in his side for tomorrow’s game. By contrast, Townsend revealed a squad of 26 which will be reduced in the morning.
The Glasgow head coach said: “The ideal for us is that we give game time to as many of the players as we can, while balancing that against the need to deliver a positive performance and result against a very strong Harlequins side.”
One new name that has been added to the Glasgow squad for Saturday’s meeting with the men from the Twickenham Stoop is that of versatile Canadian international back Connor Braid.
The 24-year-old has signed on a three-month deal after a calamitous knee injury to George Hunter forced Glasgow into the market place.
Braid, who has previously played for Doncaster Knights, is just as comfortable at stand-off, centre and full-back and is excited about his new opportunity. “I have come close to signing for Glasgow on a couple of occasions in the last 18 months and I am just delighted to have finally joined up,” said Braid.
He added: “I’ve had a busy summer both with the full Canada international team, when I played against Scotland and with our sevens side.
“I hope that will give me the platform to make the most of this chance and it is just really exciting to be in the squad for the Harlequins friendly.”