WHEN it comes to Glasgow’s European record, the history books tell no lies.
Despite tales of what might have been, Glasgow have developed a disappointing inability to breach the pool stages and reach the last eight of the flagship club tournament in Europe for the first time. This under-achievement has been made all the more painful by Edinburgh’s memorable run to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup in 2012.
It has not all been doom and gloom, with benchmark victories racked up increasingly regularly in the last few seasons, most noticeably at Toulouse in 2009 and in Montpellier earlier in the current campaign, who were also vanquished at Firhill in 2011. And a string of big-name English scalps including Gloucester, Wasps, Northampton and Bath (on two occasions) have all been collected, as the Warriors provided positive proof of progress without achieving any substantive and tangible success.
Yet for Stuart Hogg, the opportunity to consign the frustration of all that failure has finally arrived at its pivotal moment with Glasgow’s return Pool 4 encounter against Toulouse at Scotstoun tomorrow.
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Although a defeat at the Stade Ernest Wallon in the first encounter five days ago saw Warrior’s unbeaten group stage record broken and Gregor Townsend’s side supplanted by the French at the summit of their section, the Scotstoun side know that should they prevail in 24 hours’ time, the promised-land will once again be within touching distance.
“I believe it is the biggest game in our history,” said Scotland full back Hogg. “We have been in this competition and not been in a position to compete for the trophy before but we have had two wins in our first three games and maybe had a little blip at the weekend. But now we have a good opportunity to go out there and win and put ourselves back into contention for this.
“So it’s a massive game for us. If we win this we are right in the mix. We unfortunately finish this pool stage away to Bath and we don’t want to be going down to Bath to try and scrape a win. If we can get a win here it will really put us in a good place.
“We also want to be the first Scottish team to win a trophy and what better trophy to win than the European Champions Cup. When we have been beaten this season we have analysed well and come out all guns blazing trying to put that right. That is the target tomorrow.
“Really we want to be the first Scottish team to win titles. We have been in positions over the last three or four years when we have been in [Pro 12] semi-finals and finals and everybody here at Glasgow firmly believes that if we keep working hard on and off the field a trophy is just round the corner.”
While the four-time Heineken Cup winners remain the competition this term, when it comes to fallibility in Guy Noves’ side, Glasgow have taken succour from an erratic record in the Top 14 which has left their vaunted opponents languishing in mid-table after losing six times from their opening 12 league games.
“We have studied their domestic record and the teams that have beaten them played them in the right areas and took them on physically as well,” revealed Hogg.
“Last Sunday at times they scared us and we tried to play in front of them rather than going through them and looking for offloads. But the good thing about this competition is that we get a chance to put it right this week.
“It is massively exciting. We have trained well and it is up to us to do the job. On our day we can beat anyone but it will take a massive 80-minute performance to beat Toulouse. They are a world-class side full of world-class individuals. Our defence has to be spot on and we have to take them on. But we have a quality team going out on Saturday and hopefully we can win.
“Toulouse are an attacking side and the best at offloading in the whole of Europe, so for us our defence has to be a wee bit better, get the low tackles in and get the second man in on the attacking ball and stop the offloads. If they do get the offloads it is about our next defender being able to jam in and stop the attack.
“They had a few line breaks with the first few boys through the channels, the first three boys near the rucks, last week and that hurt us. But we pride ourselves at being a really good attacking and defending team and our defence kind of let us down.
“It was disappointing not to get the win but we firmly believe if we stick to our game plan we can go out there and win. That said it is not just going to happen. We have to make it happen and it is going to take a massive performance from us.
“We were bitterly disappointed last Sunday. We pride ourselves on being a well-disciplined team and to give away all these penalties and two yellow cards is bitterly disappointing.
“In terms of attack it is playing in the right areas, it is holding the ball up and when we get good attacking opportunities we take them.
“We have the game plan in place and if we play to our game plan we should be alright.”
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