CHRIS Paterson has described the quietly efficient contribution of Peter Murchie to Glasgow’s unbeaten start to the Guinness Pro12 campaign as “vital”.
Rock solid under the high ball, positionally adept, a regular scavenger of opposition re-starts and increasingly proficient at filling in at first or second receiver when the occasion demands, Murchie’s no-frills approach has made him an increasingly influential part of the Warriors’ backline.
With the 28-year-old’s assured play increasingly invaluable, British Lion Stuart Hogg has found himself deployed as a replacement, with his substitute contribution against Leinster on opening day coming at stand-off.
Now Paterson, Scotland’s record cap and points holder with 109 caps and 809 points, from full-back, wing and stand-off, has heaped praise on the pragmatic Murchie.
“I think the great thing about Peter Murchie is that he works so hard and is so determined to keep improving and season-on-season you can see he is very much doing that,” said Paterson. “Really he has become a vital member of the Glasgow backline.”
Paterson continued: “I thought that against Cardiff last weekend he was excellent, as he always is, under the high ball and if Lee Byrne plays for the Dragons tomorrow I am sure he will be tested in that regard once again.
“But it would be wrong to highlight one part of Peter’s game, for his big strength is that he is so solid all-round. I think that his bravery in coming for a high ball or stealing an opposition re-start is particularly appreciated by his team-mates.
“But positionally he is very rarely embarrassed and if he needs to fill in at first or second receiver he is very comfortable in doing that and there is never any panic there.
“You look at the way he kept Stuart Hogg out of the starting line-up at 15 at the end of last season, and now the start of the new campaign – that tells you just how highly Peter is rated at Glasgow.
“Yet because Peter goes about his work in such a quiet fashion he very rarely gets the credit he deserves. I would say that right now Peter is very much in form and that also bodes well for Scotland, going forward.”
While the former London Welsh stalwart may have pole position at full-back for the time being, Paterson believes that Murchie’s battle with Hogg for the No 15 jersey only underlines the strength in depth across the Warriors’ back-line.
“If you look at the depth Glasgow have across the backs then Gregor Townsend deserves huge credit for the way he has built his squad,” said Paterson.
The former Scotland international continued: “While Murchie and Hogg will drive each other on at 15 you look at Lee Jones dropping out last weekend after a great start against Leinster and the way Sean Lamont has come in and scored a fine try against Cardiff, the contribution of DTH van der Merwe and also Tommy Seymour’s fine form and the back three is very well covered.
“At stand-off you now have Duncan Weir fit again and Peter Horne starting at the Blues while Finn Russell, I believe, may be back shortly.
“Similarly there is an embarrassment of riches at stand-off and at scrum-half where Henry Pyrgos and Niko Matawalu bring different qualities to bear.”
Next up for Townsend’s troops is a trip to Rodney Parade tomorrow afternoon to face the wounded Dragons and Paterson admits this will be an uncompromising test of the Warriors’ mettle.
“I always found Rodney Parade a tough place to take a result from and had more than my fair share of painful afternoons there,” Paterson admitted.
He continued: “The Dragons are always very physical and with their blitz defence they will be right in Glasgow’s faces and they will provide a stern test of Glasgow’s accuracy under pressure.
“The Dragons will also be hurting after two very tight losses, especially in their last game against the Ospreys, who are leading the Guinness Pro12 right now.
“So Rodney Parade will be no place for the faint hearted but with Glasgow having lost home and away to the Dragons last season their motivation will be huge.”
Meanwhile, the first instalment of this season’s inter-city rivalry will be served up at Bridgehaugh on Monday when Glasgow face Edinburgh in an ‘A’ fixture with kick-off at 5pm and admission free.
Warriors internationals Finn Russell and Sean Maitland are believed to be in line to make their return from injury in a strong Glasgow side that will be coached by Kenny Murray.
The Warriors coach said: “I’m looking forward to our first ‘A’ fixture on Monday against Edinburgh Rugby.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for a number of our players with different circumstances to get some game time early in the new season.
“We have some players coming back from injury and this is also a great platform for our Elite Development Players.
“We’re expecting a very tough test against Edinburgh and this is a fantastic initiative by Scottish Rugby.”