If Duncan Weir steps up to take a penalty in front of the posts tonight and slots it perfectly into the top right-hand corner just below the crossbar we will know who to blame.
Scotland football manager Gordon Strachan was invited into Scotstoun yesterday morning to impart wisdom and wit in equal measure to the Glasgow Warriors squad ahead of their penultimate game of the regular season. According to Glasgow boss Gregor Townsend, much of what the national football manager had to say was as amusing as it was unprintable, although it wasn’t all played for laughs.
“Gordon had us in stitches with stories that you definitely cannot tell anyone else,” said Townsend, “but really good inspirational stories about what made Aberdeen and Leeds tick, what he believes these guys are working for, which is the memories of being together in those special moments, not necessarily the medals and the trophies. He stressed working together, winning together, having a good time together. It was excellent.
“I got a real insight into [Sir] Alex Ferguson, which obviously can’t be repeated here, an insight into why the Leeds’ environment was different, his thoughts on modern-day football coaching, how it’s different coaching at club and international level.
“The players asked some really good questions about how football has changed over the last ten to 20 years and got some really good insights into what money has done to a certain tier of the game. He wasn’t talking about the top tier where money is irrelevant… a Messi or whoever will work as hard to improve whether they got £100 or £100,000 a week.”
Glasgow players are paid a little less than that but should they beat Zebre tonight, and any other result will require a stewards’ enquiry, it will be the club’s ninth successive win stretching back to mid-February, a regular season record for the Warriors (last year’s final was the club’s tenth successive victory). The “Sold Out” signs are already in place around the ground.
Glasgow beat the same side 43-14 just three weeks back and that was in Italy, so is it difficult motivating the players for what everyone assumes will be the nearest thing to a “gimme” that the Pro12 can produce?
“No,” came Townsend’s response. “It has been like a normal week that you get sometimes where they are maybe not as good as you want them to be and then at other times they are very good. Today was an example. We started training in the snow really poorly and then we got on the main pitch, still in the snow, and trained really well.
“For some of the people starting the game, it could be their last home game before the move to other clubs. The motivation is very high.”
Townsend is resting club captain Jonny Gray and full-back Stuart Hogg ahead of the Connacht game next Saturday. The Galway side, incidentally, are resting something like two-thirds of their starting team for this evening’s match against Treviso, which shows the importance they are putting in that final fixture.
Nearer to home, the USA Eagle Greg Peterson replaces Gray in the Warriors’ second row with Edinburgh-bound Glenn Bryce taking over the No 15 shirt. Weir starts at ten outside Grayson Hart and tighthead prop D’arcy Rae gets a rare chance to show what he can do from the off.
Glasgow are all but unbeatable at home in this league but so too are Connacht, the surprise package of the season. Next Saturday’s final fixture in Galway has all the signs of being the decisive one and Townsend shows every sign of relishing that fact.
“We want to get into a shoot-out with Connacht,” said the Glasgow gunslinger. “Even if they lose their game [tonight] it’s still going to be a shootout, because they’ll be just a couple of points behind us. Them winning or losing against Munster didn’t really affect what we believe will happen if we both win, which is we’re playing for a home semi-final. There could be other permutations... but the only way we’re getting a home semi-final is if we win our next two games.”
Incidentally, the long career of Sean Lamont may have one more chapter since the veteran winger did not appear on the list of players leaving the club that Glasgow produced last week, despite his one-year contract coming to an end in June. Lamont may well get another 12-month extension, possibly in a dual role as player/conditioning coach.