AN INSPIRATIONAL weekend of Scottish victories could provide a fresh burst of momentum across the game if Glasgow can set a new record this week in the RaboDirect PRO12.
The Warriors face Cardiff at Scotstoun tomorrow night bidding to claim a seventh straight win for the club in the league, and eighth in all competitions, surpassing their own six-win stretch from the first half of the season. They kicked off last weekend’s treble celebrations by beating PRO12 leaders Ulster before Scotland Under-20s followed suit with victory on the same night against their Irish counter- parts. And then on Sunday, Scotland claimed their first back-to-back series of wins in the RBS Six Nations Championship since 2001 by beating Ireland 12-8 at Murrayfield.
Kellock, who returns to lead Glasgow on Friday, said: “That should provide a boost. It can’t have been done in a long time [it has never been done]. Especially when you’re talking about beating an Ulster team who are at the top of the league, and not a win against a mid- table side. They had only lost twice previous to that.
“That got the weekend off to a great start and the boys were really excited, and because we have boys involved in the under-20s there is more attachment to that as well. You see Jonny [Gray], Adam [Ashe] and Mark [Bennett] every week so you have more interest in what’s going on, and with Sean [Lineen] coaching as well, and Crossy [Simon Cross] is in with us occasionally, and it all gets fed back in which is great.
“From a Glasgow perspective, last year, when the Six Nations came about, we talked about what we needed. We did well in those games, and that pushed us on to the semi-final spot. This season, we’ve not just done well from games during the Six Nat-ions, we’ve done as well as we possibly could. We couldn’t have got any more points, and that shows the strength of the squad. For us, that Northampton game was massive for us. The week before, against Ulster, we didn’t win but a lot of things went well and the pack showed we could compete and sometimes get the upper hand on a very good Ulster pack.
“The double over Edinburgh was also massive at a pivotal point of the season, but I’ll tell you at the end of the season where the turning point was and hopefully we will have had a very successful year.”
Kellock had asked permission to leave the Scotland camp to attend the Glasgow match against Ulster, and he revealed how he went into the dressing-room before the game and returned there after the final whistle to congratulate them. That is typical of the ethos he and the coaches have fostered at Glasgow. But this weekend it is easier for the big lock. With the Six Nations having a weekend off before the final two matches, Kellock, Duncan Weir, Jon Welsh, Moray Low and Henry Pyrgos – all replacements at Murrayfield at the weekend – have been released back to the Warriors before the Celtic league goes into a fortnight’s hibernation.
Kellock, Weir and Welsh have gone straight back into the starting line-up, while Low and Pyrgos start on the bench, and Kellock reclaims the captaincy from Ryan Wilson. With Weir returning, Peter Horne shifts back to inside centre while DTH van der Merwe has recovered from concussion, which forced him off the field last week, and starts, with Byron McGuigan taking over from Tommy Seymour on the right wing after Seymour suffered a rib injury in training. Kellock acknowledged that there was pressure on the internationalists to justify their swift returns and maintain the momentum built up without them in recent weeks. But having watched Wilson lead the team so well in his absence, prop Jon Welsh sought to fuel inaccurate speculation that the squad had to have a vote to decide whether Kellock would skipper the side on his return this week.
Kellock laughs. “Jon was upset because we’ve got Kevin Bryce in from Heriot’s and he is stronger than him. Jon always thought he was the strongest guy in Glasgow Warriors, but not any more. If you’re new coming in the environment here, it’s cut-throat. Nothing is held back. But that’s part of the work that we put in for each other, that we’re so close that we can pretty much say anything and get away with it.
“I don’t go into any game with a definite plan on how I’m going to skipper. I’ll see what is needed on the night, whether guys need built up or calmed down or guys need a wee conversation on the way in. I think it’s fantastic what Ryan has done. He has his heart on his sleeve, he speaks well and he leads by example. That’s brilliant for us. The more leaders we have out on the park the better. I would give Ryan his head whenever I was playing, whether he was skipper or not.
“As internationalists, we have to make a difference and I say that to all the boys coming back. I said that to Henry [Pyrgos], who is now coming back as an internationalist. There is added pressure which is a great thing, and you’d never change it, but it is added pressure. Henry’s developed massively since he got those first caps, as a leader on the park. He’s always had the playing ability but he demands standards at training, is quite willing to fall out with somebody to tell them the way he sees it, and that’s just maturity, which you get from these big games, and we’re beginning to have a great bunch.”
Kellock could hardly be more relaxed at yesterday’s team announcement, his four-year-old daughter Kate joining him, after delighting her dad with a specially-made poster at Murrayfield on Sunday acclaiming his 50th cap. But there is a clear eagerness in him to steer his club to the PRO12 title and play a role in pushing Scotland to more victories, hence the deep desire to get back on the field in Warriors colours tomorrow.
Glasgow team: Murchie, McGuigan, Dunbar, Horne, Van Der Merwe, Weir, Matawalu, Reid, MacArthur, Welsh, Swinson, Kellock (captain), Strauss, Barclay, Wilson.
Replacements: Brown, Fainga’anuku, Low, Ryder, Eddie, Pyrgos, Wight, Morrison.
ON A ROLL...
ON FRIDAY, Glasgow will look to record their seventh league victory in a row following a remarkable set of results which has seen Gregor Townsend’s men climb to second in the RaboDirect PRO12 table.
Glasgow 24, Edinburgh 13
The Warriors grabbed a nine-point lead for the second leg of
the 1872 cup clash by running out comfortable winners at Scotstoun. Edinburgh attempted to mount a late comeback but a Van Der Merwe double and Rob Harley score were enough to put the Warriors out of sight.
Edinburgh 17, Glasgow 21
The visiting side clinched the 1872 Cup for the fourth successive year with an early try from Sean Maitland putting them in the driving seat before Ruaridh Jackson added to the score. Henry Pyrgos touched down for Glasgow in the second half and Roddy Grant and Tim Visser scored late tries for Edinburgh, but the Warriors held firm in the dying moments to secure victory.
4 Jan: Glasgow 41, Treviso 7
Glasgow romped to victory after the Italian side had a man sent off in the opening stages, allowing the Warriors to run in five tries and gather a bonus point. Van Der Merwe, Seymour and Matawalu all scored tries, along with Stuart Hogg who touched down twice.
10 Feb: Zebre 20, Glasgow 36
A try either side of half-time from winger Byron McGuigan inspired his side to a bonus-point victory following a two-week break from league duty due to the Heineken Cup. The Warriors found themselves 17-20 down after 40 minutes, but scores from Eddie, Murchie and Dunbar and kicks from Wight and Finn Russell allowed Glasgow to triumph.
15 Feb: Dragons 3, Glasgow 60
Glasgow’s depleted side put on a showstopping performance at Rodney Parade to secure a record league victory. Tries from Bennett, Matalawu, Dunbar, Paris, Swinson (2), Strauss and Thomson enabled Glasgow to execute the biggest away win in the Pro12 tournament’s history.
22 Feb: Glasgow 20, Ulster 14
Niko Matawalu won his fourth Man of the Match award in a row as the Scotstoun side closed the gap at the summit to just three points by beating top side Ulster. Glasgow racked up four tries in the victory but only mustered 20 points as Peter Horne failed to convert.