IT IS one of rugby’s unwritten rules that a team which needs victory will usually beat a side that just wants to win and Glasgow needed to win the first leg of the 1872 Cup against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Boxing Day like a skydiver needs a parachute.
Gregor Townsend’s team haven’t had to go looking for trouble in recent months and, following Thursday’s 20-16 win, the head coach had the look of a condemned man who had just escaped the gallows.
His side are still a million miles from the all-conquering heroes who put six tries past Munster earlier in the year but they remain focused in adversity, as South African No.8 Josh Strauss pointed out.
“It is one of our strengths that we are a very tight knit group of guys and everyone gets along so well. We are all really good friends and it is a big thing for Glasgow. As an outsider coming in, you notice it straightaway and it’s great. We work to keep it like that and we have to take advantage of it.
“I don’t think there is any self-doubt. I have been in the situation before with different teams when you get on a losing streak and it works on your confidence. But, as a rugby player, you are in this profession because you are competitive and you always want to win. As a group, that’s what we want to do. The last few results hadn’t been great, but it came down to our mistakes and it was just something we had to fix. I think we did that well this week. We just have to improve from here.”
Glasgow certainly showed some character in coming back from a 16-9 half-time deficit to win but whether they have turned the corner will depend upon backing that up with something similar on Wednesday.
Strauss had been bench-bound for Glasgow’s last two matches but he made an impact along with several other second-half substitutes on Thursday, even if Townsend had his hand forced by an injury to Ruaridh Jackson, his only outside back on the bench. Ryan Wilson moved to inside centre and Strauss took up his usual role in the middle of the back row.
“Gregor plays the team that he thinks suits the conditions better,” said the hirsute back-rower. “Against Edinburgh, he thought the back row he chose was the best choice so, in the team context, I just have to work hard when I get on and fight for the position. That’s what makes us a good team – the competition. But we are a tight group of guys and when someone gets selected we get behind him.”
Does he expect to be picked for Wednesday’s re-match? “It is tough to say,” says Strauss. “It’s a competitive sport and we are all competitive people. Obviously, I want to start every game but, when you have been in rugby as long as I have, you learn to bite the bullet and just get behind the other guy. If there is any negativity or any bad vibes it is not good for the team.”