Barclay tipped for Scots captaincy

JOHN Barclay's continuing progress towards world-class status will see him named Scotland captain within a few years, according to a former holder of the post.

• John Barclay was one of the stand-out performers in Scotland's win over the Springboks Picture: SNS

Seventy-five-times capped Gordon Bulloch believes the Glasgow flanker's leadership is quickly becoming as impressive as his defensive abilities, and thinks that if Barclay and his team-mates play at the top of their form they have a chance of upsetting Toulouse when the Heineken Cup resumes on Friday.

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"He's an exceptional talent," said Bulloch, who retired from playing last season and is now a non-executive member of the Scottish Rugby Board. "It's great for Glasgow and for rugby in Scotland that John has opted to play at home for a while longer.

"His defensive qualities are remarkable and his leadership qualities are really developing now as well. I can see him being Scotland captain in two or three years."

Barclay, 24, signed a new two-year deal this year with Glasgow, the team he joined as an apprentice six years ago. An outstanding performer in Scotland's recent win over South Africa at Murrayfield, he will have to play to a similar standard against the French club at Firhill, according to Bulloch, if Glasgow are to keep their Heineken hopes alive.

"Like Scotland, what Glasgow need to do is ensure they're still in the game coming into the home straight. If they can stay in the match and keep it close going into those last ten to 15 minutes, they have every chance of victory.

"I'd love to see them win by scoring lots of tries and picking up a bonus point, but they just have to make sure they win the game first. At least playing at Firhill in front of a big crowd gives the team a genuine home advantage now, whereas in my day, when we played as Glasgow Caledonians at McDiarmid Park in Perth, it was unfamiliar to most of us so did not feel like a proper home game.

"Toulouse have a lot of money, a lot of talent and strength in depth," the former Scotland hooker continued. "They always target a couple of their away games as one they can win and the Glasgow match will be in that category for them.

"Having won one game and lost one so far, Glasgow really have to win every single game from now on if they're going to qualify for the quarter-finals. We've seen Edinburgh beat Toulouse before, so it's not an insurmountable challenge. But they will have to play the best rugby in their history to go through."

Glasgow lost 38-26 to Wasps in their last game in Pool Six, but earlier defeated Newport Gwent Dragons to stand on four points. Wasps are two ahead, having picked up a bonus point in their defeat by Toulouse, while the French club have eight points and remain firm favourites to win the group.

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Bulloch, who played in the Heineken Cup against all three of the other sides in the pool, knows that even if his former team win this weekend then follow it up with a victory in Toulouse eight days later, they will still have a lot to do. "Wasps can be a class act, and although the Dragons lost in Glasgow on the opening day, they have almost been a bogey side for us in the past. So getting to the knockout stages will be a tall order. But the guys have the belief that they can do it and teams are not going to like coming to Firhill.

"We still don't quite have the money that Munster and Leinster have, not to mention the leading clubs in England and France. But we have done very well with the resources we have. Look at Glasgow's performances last year when they finished third in the Magners League. That was a vast improvement on the results that we had in the late 1990s and the early 2000s."

Provided the weather allows fixtures to go ahead, the next four weekends should be the crucial stage of Glasgow's season, as they follow up the Toulouse double-header with back-to-back matches against Edinburgh. The performances by players such as Barclay have outshone any individual contributions from Edinburgh players so far this season, but Bulloch does not think it necessarily follows that his old team will have the edge over the capital side.

"Glasgow have a higher number of high-profile players such as John at the moment, but these games are one-offs. The Edinburgh pack has been doing well without having the star names that Glasgow have."

Friday's match against Toulouse kicks off at 8pm and is live on Sky. The return in the south of France is on Saturday 18, while the games against Edinburgh are on Monday 27 at Firhill and Sunday 2 January at Murrayfield.