Glasgow coach Grgegor Townsend looks to mastermind victory in Italy
GLASGOW coach Gregor Townsend used to be preoccupied at this time of the year with the Scotland back-line permutations he could conjure in the autumn Tests.
But, as he headed to Italy yesterday, he could be forgiven for allowing himself a wry smile that he only has to worry about the Warriors team. While his former boss Andy Robinson sits with fingers crossed this weekend in the hope of not losing any more key players to injury, Townsend is focused on stretching Glasgow’s unbeaten run the in RaboDirect PRO12 to five matches and the team’s winning sequence in Treviso to six in seven matches.
That, he insisted, was more than enough for one coach. He said: “I enjoyed my time with Scotland but I am really enjoying the job I have here with Glasgow and I have thought about nothing else this week than how we beat Treviso.
“Andy will have a lot to think about and I’ve had a few chats with Scott Johnson [Townsend’s successor as Scotland attack coach], and he has been very helpful in what he has seen with our team as well. He has brought a new pair of eyes to things.
“We’ve also had Wayne Smith [ex-All Blacks coach] working with us as well this week, mainly passing on ideas to coaches but also doing some skills, and that input is something you can’t put a value on. But the focus is very much on Treviso, who are a very hard team to beat at home, and then the next game against the Dragons because we want to bounce back from the Heineken Cup defeats and go into the autumn break with seven league wins on the trot and right in the mix at the top of the PRO12.”
Both sides are coming into tonight’s game off two Heineken Cup defeats, but both also have good recent form in the PRO12. Even in the Heineken, Treviso led Toulouse 21-12 with just over 20 minutes remaining last weekend, before losing 33-21, so, like Glasgow, who ran Northampton and Ulster close, there is some confidence to be extracted from the disappointment, and frustration at not closing out wins.
In their last four league games, Townsend’s team have beaten Ospreys and Cardiff Blues on the road, and Connacht and Zebre at Scotstoun, while Treviso have beaten Edinburgh at Murrayfield and Scarlets at home. They also defeated Ospreys at the Stadio Monigo and just lost to Leinster there in injury-time.
Glasgow have won on five of their last six visits to Italy, but, a sign of Treviso’s improvement, they needed a late DTH van der Merwe try last year and lost the previous April 19-16.
Both teams’ top try-scorers are out, van der Merwe still two or three weeks from returning from a hamstring injury and the Italians’ No 8 Robert Barbieri, who has six tries this season, including two at Murrayfield, also missing. Glasgow also discovered this week that centre Graeme Morrison will not be fit until early December after having his knee injury further assessed, but by then they hope to have Sean – whose cheekbone is healing swiftly – and Rory Lamont, van der Merwe and new Kiwi Sean Maitland all available.
Even with 12 players injured and others rested, Glasgow’s greater strength in depth this season has enabled Townsend to reshape his back division without weakening it. Stuart Hogg returns to the outside centre position in one of five positional changes. Tommy Seymour is back from his one-match suspension for the injured Byron McGuigan on the right wing, Niko Matawalu, a try scorer against Ulster, lines up on the other touchline and Murchie returns to full-back.
Alex Dunbar takes over from Peter Horne at inside centre, Horne being rested after suffering heavy face and knee knocks in the Ulster and Northampton matches.
Finlay Gillies replaces Dougie Hall at hooker, Rob Harley makes his first start since recovering from a knee injury and John Barclay takes over from the rested Chris Fusaro at openside flanker. Canadian youngster Taylor Paris also comes on to the bench for what will be his first Glasgow appearance in a competitive match.
Treviso have made a number of changes to their side with powerful Fijian Manoa Vosawai starting at No8 and an all Italian-Argentine front row of Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Franco Sbaraglini and Pedro Di Santo named. Lock Corniel Van Zyl takes over as captain.
There will also be a minute’s silence to remember the former Benetton player Piero Dotto, who died on Thursday.
Townsend is excited at being back to league action, but insisted that there was much that the players would take into the next two games from the defeats in Europe.
“We learn in every game we play and it’s crucial that we take the lessons from the Northampton and Ulster games, and what we might do differently to improve our performances and win.
But we’re well aware of how tough this game will be and we need to be watertight up front and accurate right across the team.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east