SCOTLAND hooker Dougie Hall has witnessed much of the good and the bad in his time with Edinburgh and Glasgow, but after opening the new season with two defeats he remains convinced that the new Warriors are a team on the rise.
New coach Gregor Townsend does not have his problems to seek as he enters the home of reigning champions the Ospreys tonight seeking a first win, with Rob Harley, Ed Kalman and Pat MacArthur all ruled out for the next few months with injuries. Prop Jon Welsh will not play again this year after a shoulder operation, All Black flanker Angus Macdonald is not match fit, Tongan flanker Viliami Ma’afu is heading home and Stuart Hogg (ankle), Rory Lamont (leg) and Tim Swinson (face) are still in rehab while tighthead Moray Low picked up a calf injury last week.
This is where experienced pros like Hall are vital to the side and he remains confident that Glasgow will be competitive in Swansea against a side also searching for a first win of the season.
He said: “The overall feeling is still really positive. We’re making great strides forward, but it’s just not quite clicked yet. We’re doing a lot of things really well; some of attack has been brilliant, but then we turn the ball over. It has really cost us so far, and that’s very frustrating from a player’s point of view.
“Everyone has the hope that you take-off exactly where you finished the season before, but there have been changes in our team and in the coaching, and sometimes it just takes time to work through that and learn how we all play together again.
“I’d like to think we’re very close [to clicking], but you only really know you’ve clicked when it happens and all of a sudden you have one of those games. Last year it was Ospreys away when we played brilliantly.
“We’re building towards that feeling again and for the same reasons that we haven’t got off to the start we hoped, you could pretty much put the same paragraph in front of their [Ospreys’] start to the season. They are good side and year-on-year they’ve proven that so you would be a fool to start thinking that all of a sudden they are not.
“We are two games into the season and it just hasn’t clicked yet, but I think there are a lot of things to be really confident about. I’m excited to see where it gets to when we get that head of steam up.”
Team selection plays a key part and Townsend has shaken up his back-line this week. It is no surprise to see Duncan Weir back in the no10 jersey after a poor kicking display hit the confidence of Ruaridh Jackson last Friday night. Townsend has also gone for an intriguing switch in the centre with Peter Horne replacing Graeme Morrison at inside centre and Alex Dunbar remaining at outside.
Dunbar appears more the typical robust inside centre and Horne a more creative 13, but Townsend is keen to use Horne’s skills alongside Weir more often, in a bid to ensure the attack is slicker and more varied, and one expects Horne and Dunbar to also swap roles on occasions. Tommy Seymour is also preferred this week to Sean Lamont, with DTH van der Merwe retaining the other wing berth.
Up front Hall replaces the injured MacArthur and Mike Cusack comes in for Low at tighthead, while Townsend makes room for his two top openside flankers, Chris Fusaro and John Barclay, by moving the latter to the blindside for the crucial battle against the Ospreys George Stowers and Jason Tipuric.
“As a coaching group, we strongly believe this team has the necessary attributes to win Friday’s game,” said Townsend.
“John Barclay has played the majority of his rugby at openside, but he has significant, and recent, experience in the other back-row positions.
“Peter Horne has made an excellent case for selection with his form and appetite in training, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he and Alex Dunbar produce as a pairing. Tommy Seymour is another player who has consistently put his hand up over the last few months, and we’re delighted to have strong options in the back three.”
He added: “We’re clearly disappointed to have lost our opening two matches, and there’s a determination to achieve a win this weekend.
“To do that away from home against a quality outfit like Ospreys we know our performance will need to be spot on. In both the Ulster and Scarlets matches, we’ve done certain things very well, but haven’t been as accurate as we know we can be in other facets of the game.
“As well as ensuring we don’t turn the ball over as often this week, we’ll need to ensure our physicality is right up there. Ospreys have one of the most aggressive defensive lines in the competition.
“We know our players are more than capable of matching that sort of relentlessness, and we’re heading to Swansea with confidence.”
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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