TIGHTHEAD props are not renowned for their sentimentality, but if Moray Low’s eyes do glisten a little at some point on Friday night then we can surely forgive the big man, given that it is likely to be his last home game as a Glasgow Warriors player.
It is, of course, possible that the Warriors will have one more match on these shores this season, but it is unlikely and they will not know if that is going to happen until the following night. Not only will it require them to defeat Munster in Friday’s play-off semi-final, but also for Ulster to upset the odds against Leinster at the Royal Dublin Society the following day. Then, as the top-seeded team in the play-off, they will be given the opportunity to select the venue of the final.
Low, who will join Exeter Chiefs over the summer, knows he is lucky that he is getting the chance to bow out on such an auspicious occasion – although he is mindful of the fact that selection for the Munster match is far from guaranteed, with Jon Welsh and Geoff Cross having been the preferred choices to anchor the scrum for the team’s biggest games in recent weeks. However, even if he is an anxious spectator in the Scotstoun stands, his affection for the club he has represented 148 times since first becoming a part of the set-up back in the summer of 2006 will ensure that it is still an emotional experience.
“I love playing for Glasgow, it’s been great for me. Sean Lineen gave me that opportunity and I’ve enjoyed pushing on to rack up that number of games. And it’s great to see how we have developed to get to where we are now,” said the 29-year-old, who has represented Scotland 26 times since making his debut as a replacement against France during the 2009 Six Nations.
Low’s career with the Warriors started in the bad old days of professional rugby in Scotland, when coaches were not so much concerned about rotating their squad as finding enough fit players to fill the required number of jerseys. It has been a long journey, and there have been a few unpleasant bumps in the road along the way, so he is entitled to feel a fair degree of pride in having been part of the transformation of the team from perennial also-rans to genuine contenders.
“Having joined Glasgow when we started off at Hughenden and to look at where we are now, it’s really satisfying – starting when Sean [Lineen] came in, and now Gregor [Townsend] taking it on further these last two seasons,” he said.
“We used to look at Leinster playing 40 or 50 guys in one season and we wanted to get to that – and the fact is that we have now got there and it’s fantastic for us to have that depth in competition. There are so many guys here who have been doing well all year, with a lot of them youngsters like Finn Russell who were just breaking into the squad at the start of the season but are now putting their hand up to play in a semi-final. And that’s in all positions. Everyone is competing for places and everyone knows that they’ve got to take their opportunities when they get them.
“It pushes us all on at training, in the gym and on the pitch during matches. It makes guys have to perform. It is a huge difference from a few years ago when we just had a 20-30 man squad. Now there are guys putting their hand up all over the place.’
This has not been an overnight success, and it is not the first time the Warriors have reached the play-offs. It is, however, new ground in that they have never managed to secure a home semi-final before, and Low is acutely aware of the significance of having the game at Scotstoun.
“I’ve played in all of our play-off matches. The first three were away – one against Ospreys and two against Leinster – so to have this one at home, with the crowd behind us, to bring some of that to Glasgow and to hopefully sell-out Scotstoun, will be fantastic,” he said.
“Playing away before made it that little bit harder, so to bring it to Glasgow and show the city what we are achieving, well, it’s good for Scottish rugby and its good for us.”
Tickets have been selling fast since the moment referee Alain Rolland blew time on Glasgow’s final match of the regular season against Zebre on Saturday evening.
The box office at Scotstoun did a roaring trade yesterday, and a link on the Warriors website for a public sale will go live at 11am this morning.
“It’s going to be massive and I was thankful to get that opportunity to start against Zebre so that I could put my name in the hat for selection,” said Low.
“It was really special to be out there with the likes of Al Kellock, Ruaridh Jackson and James Eddie, who I have been team-mates with for a long time. We don’t know if that will be the last time we play together, or even play for the club, so we wanted to leave everything out there.’
“It’s up to the coaches now to make the final decision. Hopefully, our performance on Saturday has left them with a lot of big decisions to make, and that’s the sort of headache they want.”
“I just want to do my bit to keep this season going and leave it with a happy ending. Moving on will be something different, but there is still a lot to concentrate on this season before I can start thinking about that.’
Fellow veterans Chris Cuister and Ruaridh Jackson are in similar situations. They will move to Sale Sharks and London Wasps, respectively, during the summer.