Kellock eyes start in first Scotstoun encounter
GLASGOW skipper Al Kellock is confident of being fit to lead the Warriors in their first match at the new Scotstoun Stadium, and he will be joined by more successful Scotland tourists as the team bid to bounce back from an opening-day defeat.
The new era under head coach Gregor Townsend did not start well with Glasgow going down 18-10 to an Ulster side still shorn of many top-flight stars. The Warriors also started the game without key figures, however, and internationalists such as Chris Cusiter, Ryan Grant, John Barclay and Ruaridh Jackson, who all came off the bench at Ravenhill, are now in the running to start in the hugely-anticipated Scotstoun opener against the Scarlets this Friday night.
Kellock was one of a number of players who suffered an injury and Warriors supporters had the rare sight of the lock forward being replaced in the first-half of a game. The injury amounted to the familiar ‘dead leg’ and while painful over the weekend the captain was improving yesterday and coaches confirmed that he could recover in time to retain his starting place on Friday. That exposed problems with Glasgow’s second-row resources with Tim Swinson injured and academy player Nick Campbell released to Ayr for the weekend.
Prop Ryan Grant admitted that there was a very sombre mood on the return from Belfast, but is confident that the team will be strengthened this week and lessons dished out by Ulster firmly taken on board.
“It was very disappointing,” he said. “We didn’t play nearly as well as we wanted to and we’ve got a lot to work on for the Scarlets. But there are positives to take from the game and we want to have a big impact here in our first game on this home ground.
“We have an urge to make Scotstoun a new fortress. We had Fortress Firhill and we want to create the same thing here. Everything is in place for us to succeed here, and all the backroom stuff is there now so it’s up to us to do the job on the pitch, and the boys are very capable of doing that at the weekend.”
Asked to define the positives from a game in whch the Warriors conceded 16 penalties, handing Ulster initiative and points, and struggled to complete the comeback in the second-half when drawing to within five points, Grant accepted that rustiness had played its part with many of the players having not featured in the pre-season friendlies due to international rest requirements following the summer tour.
“That was a first game for myself, Chris Cusiter, Al Kellock and a few others, and there was a bit of rust there,” he conceded. “Hopefully, we’ve shaken off those cobwebs now and can push on against the Scarlets on Friday.”
The Llanelli region opened with a stunning 45-20 win over Leinster and that has only added to the pressure on the Warriors’ squad to bring their ‘A’ game to Scotstoun this week. Grant made his Scotland debut in the summer and now has a rare record of three wins from three Scotland Tests, but he was quick to state that the feelgood factor to last season’s finale has swiftly worn off among the players with the reality of a new season and defeats for both Scottish sides.
He said: “This is where it all starts and ends. The summer was great for me, to get my first three caps, and three wins in the southern hemisphere was great for Scotland.
“But we’ve come back now and hit the ground with a thud with that disappointment of Friday night, and we have to now fix that quicker than we did last season. I think it took us four or five games before we found a bit of a stride, and that can’t happen this season. If we want to get those top two spots we need to be winning now. It starts on Friday night because we have to win at home.
“That [big Scarlets win] was a bit of a shock result. They have started the campaign very well and they are never an easy team to beat, home or away. We know that we’re going to have to improve a lot from last Friday, but we’re more than capable of doing that and the onus is on us to get that result.”
Sitting in the new stadium yesterday, the prop added: “I’m hoping all the seats are full on Friday night. I went from playing at the massive stadium that is Murrayfield to Firhill, which was hugely different, much closer, but there were still spaces at Firhill, too, whereas here I think we have the perfect amount of seats for the crowd to have a real impact. If we can fill both stands and trackside and really get the support behind the boys then we’ll win.”
The confidence is clearly unshaken by the opening-night defeat but rarely will a victory have been more craved in Glasgow than this week.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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