The past month has not gone well for Glasgow Warriors. Two defeats from two outings in the Guinness Pro 12, during which time they have managed to score just eight points in total and conceded 49, has seen them drop from joint top of the table to fifth and outside the play-off places.
In the circumstances, the arrival of top-of-the-table Munster at Scotstoun on Friday night must be regarded as something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it is a golden opportunity to re-establish their play-off credentials, but the flipside is that Gregor Townsend’s men are going to have no time to waste in their quest to rediscover the high standards they have set themselves in recent seasons.
With 19 players involved in the national set-up during the recent autumn series, this was always going to be a difficult period. Not all of these players will be back this weekend, with Stuart Hogg and Finn Russelll likely to be rested, but Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson may well be involved.
“Last Friday was similar to the game before against the Scarlets – we just didn’t get much going in those games. There was plenty of heart in our defence but our attack was poor. So we’ve looked at that this week, getting the structures right and executing better,” said No 8 Josh Strauss, who was named in the training squad for the autumn Tests but played no part in any of the three matches after tearing a calf muscle during training.
“One of the issues last week was that we’d had a lot of chopping and changing of personnel and the role clarity wasn’t there. It can be asking a lot of some new guys coming in, especially the academy guys stepping up, to learn everything in the space of a few days, so a big focus has been encouraging players to ask their questions before training – and before games – and not leave it until after they’ve made a mistake to seek clarity.
“Things haven’t gone our way in the last couple of games but there’s no use crying about it. We know that there have been some poor individual performances, and there’s no doubt that when you lose players of the quality of the international guys – and we are losing more all the time because of how much we’re improving – it has an impact. But you can only look forward and get out and put it right.”
Strauss, who captained the Warriors in the home defeat by Ospreys on Friday night in his first game back after that calf injury, added that he does not believe a lack of strength in depth is an issue in the squad. The Warriors have always shouldered a heavy burden in terms of call-ups during international windows, but, in recent years, the rotation system which head coach Townsend, pictured, likes to operate throughout the campaign, has tended to smooth out the impact of this.
However, several players of international standing have moved to pastures new since the side lifted the Pro12 title 18 months ago today, and the spending power of clubs in England and France has contributed to a situation in which these established stars have tended to be replaced by players just starting out in their careers.
In response to this, Strauss pointed out that the size of the squad in terms of player numbers is greater than ever before, and suggested that the volume of injuries suffered during this campaign is a far more significant factor.
“We’ve always been really good in this block, but this year it has just been a bit of a tough one – I don’t think it is a reflection of the depth of the squad. It has just been two bad performances and it is just unfortunate that timing-wise it has looked like that,” said the 30-year-old.
“We’ve been unlucky with injuries. We had no fit second-rows at one stage and so have had to bring in quite a few new guys, some who are from amateur clubs and are stepping up, and while they have been great and I see fantastic potential there, it doesn’t always click in one week. You can’t learn an entire playbook or lineout-calling book in a week, for instance.
“Integration doesn’t always happen quickly, but what we’ve impressed upon the squad is that this is all opportunity.
“It might not be easy straight away but it’s about seeing every lesson, every mistake, every game, as a big opportunity to learn and to show what you’ve got.”