The Glasgow Warriors squad have spent more than enough time in recent weeks being reminded of past failures to reach the knockout stages of European club rugby’s flagship competition, so it is only fair to point out a rather more encouraging statistic this week as they prepare to get their 2015-16 campaign belatedly under way against Northampton Saints at Scotstoun on Saturday evening.
The Warriors have not lost at home against English opposition since a late try from Joe Maddock and conversion from Butch James secured a 25-19 victory for Bath at Firhill in December 2008. Since then, they have entertained Bath twice more, as well as Gloucester, Wasps, Northampton and Exeter Chiefs, without ever coming up short.
The fact that a win in Exeter two years ago has been their only success on the road against English opposition during that time provides an insight on why the last eight has proven so elusive, but that is a concern for another day.
The Warriors will focus this week on their home record as they prepare to take on the team which topped the Aviva Premiership table at the end of the 2014-15 regular season.
Defence coach Matt Taylor said: “They are a very good team. They are well coached and they won’t be complacent. [Coach] Jim Mallinder has talked about this being a tough place to play and we are expecting them to be at their best.
“In saying that, we’ve played three Premiership teams over the last three years and done well, so we are looking forward to it,” added Taylor [who chose not to comment on successes over English opposition which pre-date his time at the club].
The Warriors are, of course, coming off an unscheduled fallow week after their game against Racing 92 was postponed in the aftermath of last weekend’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
This inevitably had a disorientating effect on the squad at the time, but Taylor has no doubt that the players have now fully regrouped and can be stronger this week as a direct consequence of that experience.
“I suppose we should be a bit fresher. We had a training session on Saturday when we didn’t have the game and we ran a couple of the moves we want to use against Northampton. A lot of the preparation we did last week has suited this game coming up,” he explained.
“Those two teams are both set-piece orientated. Racing have probably played more off the back of the scrum, whereas Northampton might play more with power – but they have been pretty similar in general and it would have been more difficult with two very different teams.”
Taylor added: “Northampton have a good forward pack and I think winning any rugby game starts with the forwards, so our guys are looking forward to that challenge they are going to present. But Northampton are going to have to do their best to nullify us as well. It is supposed to be dry on Saturday so we are hoping to move the ball and play running rugby.
“This afternoon [Tuesday] we had one of the best training sessions we’ve had since I’ve been here. Hopefully, that puts us in good stead for the weekend. The guys were really up and aggressive and intense. It was great.”