Telfer brings edge as Glasgow get ready for Bath

Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend announces his team to face Bath this afternoon. Picture: SNS/SRU

Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend announces his team to face Bath this afternoon. Picture: SNS/SRU

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GREGOR Townsend loves to come up with innovative ruses to build morale and reinforce the desire for success within his squad but, as he looked towards this afternoon’s European Champions Cup curtain-raiser against Bath at Scotstoun, the Glasgow Warriors coach decided it was time to go back to basics.

So he invited his old mentor Jim Telfer along to a team meeting on Wednesday afternoon to give the players a few insights and pearls of wisdom. The 74-year-old insists he has mellowed during his years away from the sharp end of Scottish rugby, but his enduring reputation as the toughest taskmaster the game in this country has ever seen ensured that the players were hanging on his every word.

“We asked him about his experiences from his rugby career and tried to get any information out of him to help. We have different speakers. He was one the boys enjoyed,” revealed stand-off Duncan Weir.

“We have all seen his video [when Telfer spoke to the Lions forwards ahead of the first Test of the 1997 tour to South Africa, and compared the challenge they faced to climbing Everest] and know he is a quality public speaker and the most successful Scottish coach we have had. The boys were listening. He was on good form.

“He said every game up until now had been like a friendly for us. Gregor might not agree, but there is no doubt that it is really a big challenge this week and one that we are looking forward to performing in. Our main focus is to keep developing our performances week in and week out.”

Weir replaces Finn Russell in the chief playmaker slot as one of five changes to the team which lost for the first time this season in Ulster last weekend.

Josh Strauss has failed to recover from a shin injury and called off yesterday afternoon, with Adam Ashe taking his place, while Sean Lamont has hurt his ribs so Stuart Hogg comes in at full-back and Sean Maitland switches to the wing.

Jonny Gray will add some valuable bulk to the second-row for what promises to be a monumental set-piece battle, while Pat MacArthur’s greater experience sees him get the nod at hooker ahead of Fraser Brown.

The Ulster game was a brutal encounter but Townsend insisted that his team had few problems recovering from that experience. In fact, rather than denting confidence, he says it provided the players with a hard lesson at just the right time.

“We have had a very productive week. Ulster was the best preparation for us in terms of the physical contest and what they were doing at the set piece, which should help us going into another very tough game this weekend,” he said.

Last year’s European campaign could not have got off to a worse start. Playing reigning champions Toulon on their own patch, the Warriors were blown away in the first 40 minutes – conceding four tries to go into the break 34-0 down. Townsend reckons there is little danger of history repeating itself this afternoon.

“That was a blip. I didn’t see that in any of our other performances last year and a lot of that was down to me as a coach. We over-analysed them. We watched about ten games and they played the same way every time, but they then played the opposite way against us. They threw the ball around, they offloaded and they were brilliant,” he recalled.

“With the atmosphere, maybe the players weren’t taking the game to Toulon as we would have expected, but they did in the second half and we scored four tries. We expect our players to take the game to Bath tomorrow because that’s what we do on a consistent basis. We need to do it or we will lose the game.”

Townsend admits he is irritated that his team have struggled to replicate their league form in Europe in recent years, but believes that he and his team have learned from previous disappointments, and he says this should stand them in good stead as they set about proving that they have got what it takes to make it into the knock-out stages for the first time.

“We were frustrated with our performances last year against Cardiff, but I feel we played well against the other two teams. We beat Exeter home and away; and we had a blip for one half against Toulon but for the other three halves we played well against the best team in Europe,” he reasoned.

“The Cardiff games came just after the November Tests and, as a coach, I have to be better at reintegrating players so that they are ready to go. I felt we did a lot of good things in Cardiff, but we didn’t take our chances and that’s what you need to do. It is brilliant to create things, but you have to make sure you take the opportunities.”

Townsend added: “You can tell that there is an extra edge and anticipation and excitement. We’ve trained on the main pitch this week, we’ve had an open session and the atmosphere is building.

“I think we’ve been away from home for our first game in the past few years, so being at home is creating a real anticipation.

“Bath have an interesting balance. They have a very strong front five, who obviously train a lot in the scrum and lineout, but they also have a backline that is unique in European rugby because they play rugby league style of attack. So, if the weather stays good, it should be a cracking game for the neutral.”

Glasgow

15 S Hogg

14 S Maitland

13 M Bennett

12 P Horne

11 T Seymour

10 D Weir

9 H Pyrgos (capt)

1 G Reid

2 P MacArthur

3 E Murray

4 L Nakarawa

5 J Gray

6 R Harley

8 A Ashe

7 C Fusaro

Subs

16 D Hall

17 J Yanuyanutawa

18 R de Klerk

19 T Swinson

20 T Holmes

21 N Matawalu

22 F Russell

23 DTH vd Merwe

Bath

15 G Henson

14 S Rokoduguni

13 J Joseph

12 K Eastmond

11 A Watson

10 G Ford

9 M Young

1 N Auterac

2 R Batty

3 H Thomas

4 S Hooper (capt)

5 D Attwood

6 D Day

8 D Sisi

7 G Mercer

Subs

16 R Webber

17 P James

18 D Wilson

19 C Ewels

20 T Ellis

21 P Stringer

22 O Devoto

23 H Agulla

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