DCSIMG

Kellock insists Glasgow can get back on course

Skipper Al Kellock is confident Glasgow can bounce back from last week's defeat. Picture: Toby Williams

Skipper Al Kellock is confident Glasgow can bounce back from last week's defeat. Picture: Toby Williams

  • by DAVID FERGUSON
 

GLASGOW tonight enter a crucial series of games which will have a huge bearing on the momentum generated under head coach Gregor Townsend.

The Warriors will welcome Cardiff to Scotstoun in the fourth round of Heineken Cup pool games, having privately chastised themselves for the manner in which they succumbed to a weakened Blues at the Arms Park last weekend.

What they were reminded of is that, stellar names or not, Welsh players have been schooled in the basics of rugby from a very early age and so a young Cardiff side overdosing on spirit will always prove a handful for opponents who let their standards slip.

Townsend has made eight changes to his side and admitted that some were wholly down to the performance in Cardiff.

As he plots a three-week period of games, with Treviso and Edinburgh clashes to follow, he knows that failure to kick on from the performances of recent weeks, far less a repeat of the Cardiff debacle, will lead to fears of his Warriors being cast once again as competitive also-rans.

Skipper Alastair Kellock is not buying into that. The experienced lock believes that the flipside of last week’s defeat being largely self-inflicted is that the players have the ability to fix it this week, having reminded them that the foundations they laid in a storming finish to last season remain intact.

“It’s a different psychology, the second season,” he said. “I’ve been involved in it before when we’ve done reasonably well and then, the next year, teams have an eye on you. So we do different things, make sure we highlight different areas.

“But there is no element of complacency in the squad. What there is, is the knowledge that we have the ability, so frustration maybe kicks in. What I say every week is that we go back to our foundations, which are hard work, aggression, accuracy and a physical edge. If one of those is missing, then we won’t win games because teams know what we can do.

“We’ve studied last week’s game and you could go through the team, pick out certain individuals, and see that certain things are missing from certain positions. Those conversations I have with individuals, and Gregor has as well, to make sure that we have 15 or 23 players playing to the best of their abilities.

“We are doing some things really well. It’s not like there has been one issue over the past few weeks. I agree that there have not been any perfect performances, but you could pick bits out of each game and say ‘that’s where we need to improve’.

“My main issue is that we need to put it all together. You will not do that in every game of the pre-season but we need to get it back there pretty quickly.”

Kellock will be partnered for the first time by Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa, whose debut try last week was one of the few bright spots. Tim Swinson is expected to return next week from the chest injury he suffered against Japan but Jonny Gray, who turned an ankle in training, will see a specialist today and is expected to be out until at least January.

Townsend is hopeful that Nakarawa will prove to be every bit as shrewd a signing as his compatriot Niko Matawalu and, while he has terrific handling skills – the skipper said his giant hands make Kellock’s look like a kid’s – it is his ability in the scrum, lineout and rucks that they have found most pleasing.

Tommy Seymour returns from injury to line up on the left wing in place of DTH van der Merwe, while Byron McGuigan replaces Gabriel Ascarate at outside centre – Mark Bennett has a toe injury but should be fit next week – and Ruaridh Jackson replaces Duncan Weir at stand-off.

Up front, Pat MacArthur and Jon Welsh are back in the front row, Tyrone Holmes starts in place of Chris Fusaro and Ryan Wilson makes his first start of the season at No 8 in place of Josh Strauss. Prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa is back from Fiji duty.

Cardiff make just one change, surprisingly shifting last week’s Man of the Match Rhys Patchell to centre to fill in for the injured Dafydd Hewitt and allow stand-off Gareth Davies, the late-try hero against Toulon, to return from injury to the No 10 jersey.

Townsend felt his side played into Cardiff’s hands by “taking their foot off the gas” at key moments in attack last week, notably when the Blues counter-rucked and broke from deep, but he takes heart from his team sitting second in the Heineken Cup’s attacking statistics. “We weren’t happy but there were also a lot of good elements to our game,” he said. “Our counter-attacking was excellent and we got into their 22 eleven different times but, due to us not looking after the ball and a bit of misfortune, we turned over the ball in their 22 and they were big momentum swings. But we said straight after the game that there’s one way to qualify now, and that’s win all the games we have left. Two are at home and it starts with a much better performance [against Cardiff], and we build from there.”

Kellock added: “If we play with the same ambition and in the right areas then the scores should come. You still have to break down their defence, but I would challenge any team to live with us when we don’t make those mistakes.

“We’re not out of it. If we win this week then we’ll go into the last two games and have to win both of them too. You have to win one away, minimum and, if we can do that, we will put ourselves in the mix.”

Glasgow

15 S Hogg

14 S Maitland

13 B McGuigan

12 A Dunbar

11 T Seymour

10 R Jackson

9 N Matawalu

1 R Grant

2 P MacArthur

3 J Welsh

4 L Nakarawa

5 A Kellock (c)

6 R Harley

7 T Holmes

8 R Wilson

Subs

16 D Hall

17 J Yanuyanutawa

18 E Kalman

19 J Strauss

20 C Fusaro

21 C Cusiter

22 D Weir

23 DTH vd Merwe

Cardiff Blues

15 L Halfpenny

14 A Cuthbert

13 R Smith

12 R Patchell

11 H Robinson

10 G Davies

9 L Williams

1 S Hobbs (c)

2 K Dacey

3 T Filise

4 C Dicomidis

5 F Paulo

6 M Cook

7 R Watts-Jones

8 R Copeland

Subs

16 M Breeze

17 T Davies

18 B Bourrust

19 J Down

20 E Jenkins

21 A Pretorius

22 L Jones

23 D Fish

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