Sebastián Cancelliere admits he was a little bit torn. The winger was at Ibrox last season with his Warriors team-mates to watch Rangers beat RB Leipzig and reach the Europa League final. But his loyalties have now transferred.
“We found out that there was an Argie at Celtic and we sent him a message,” explained Cancelliere. “And we’re friends of Berna as we call him. He’s a good guy.
“We went to watch Celtic when they played against Real Madrid. Everyone else here at the club seems to be a Rangers fan. So last year we went to the Rangers game in the Europa League semi-final against RB Leipzig at Ibrox and they/we won.
“But now Bernabei is playing at Celtic I have the Celtic jersey on! The Madrid game was good fun and hopefully he will now come to some of our games here. He wants to do that.”
Cancelliere is no stranger to football rivalries having grown up in Buenos Aires as a River Plate fan and admitted he had been on the wrong side of some good-natured barbs from his Rangers-supporting team-mates.
“Yeah, they don’t like it a lot that I am now a Celtic fan. Especially Duncan Weir. But my heart is now green and white!
“Back home I support River Plate and I’ve been to the derbies against Boca at the Monumental Stadium. That’s a massive game. But I would have to say the atmosphere at Celtic against Real Madrid was amazing as well. Both of the stadiums are really good. It was a great spectacle to watch. Hopefully one day we can reach the same atmosphere for games here at Glasgow!”
There was certainly a buzz around Scotstoun last Friday as the Warriors served up eight tries in their entertaining 52-24 victory over Cardiff. It was like the Glasgow of old as they peppered their opponents with some high-octane rugby.
Cancelliere was in the thick of it, reminding the Warriors faithful of what they missed during last season’s run-in. The 29-year-old had to sit out the final five games after injuring his knee in the European Challenge Cup win at Newcastle in April.
The timing was unfortunate to say the least as Cancelliere had been in excellent form, winning the club’s Warrior of the Month award. In his absence, Glasgow unravelled, losing the remainder of their matches and sparking a change in head coach, with Danny Wilson being replaced by Franco Smith.
The Warriors have not won on the road since the 27-17 win at Kingston Park and have not won an away game in the United Rugby Championship since they beat Connacht in Galway in January.
They lost their season opener against Benetton in Italy but Cancelliere said the players are now getting used to Smith’s methods and feel a lot fitter under the new boss. They kept going right to the end of Friday’s match against Cardiff which has heightened expectations.
“The next challenge for us is to win away in this competition,” said Cancelliere. “If you want to be a top team as we do then you have to win away. Hopefully this weekend we are going to go for it.
“We have a new coach and we are getting adapted to him. We want to be a much fitter team than we were last year. That’s a big aim in our minds.
“We are getting used to what Franco wants and understanding the way he wants to play. He knows too that we want to play fast. So it’s a great mix. We’re building things step by step. Hopefully we will have a great season ahead.”
Cancelliere’s knee injury didn’t help his hopes of being called into the full Argentina squad to face Scotland in the summer Test series but he did recover in time to play for the second-string Argentina XV who beat Georgia and Portugal in July.
The winger’s aim now is to force his way back into the Test team for the Pumas’ European tour which will see them play England, Wales and Scotland in November. Competition is fierce, not least from his friend the Edinburgh winger Emiliano Boffelli who stole the show in the summer, scoring the match-winning try in the final play of the final Test to wrench the series from Scotland’s grasp.
Michael Cheika has had a transformative impact since taking over as Argentina’s head coach, culminating in the stunning win over New Zealand in Christchurch last month, and Cancelliere is itching to be part of it.
“Of course that’s always an aim to play for my country,” he said. “It’s a massive honour. It’s what all players want. So that’s my aim to get back in the Argentina squad ahead of the World Cup. To do that I know I have to do my job here and do it well because there is massive competition in Argentina in the back three. So I have to focus here and do great.”
Boffelli is the undisputed prince of the Pumas and unlikely to be dislodged any time soon but the Edinburgh player is close to Glasgow’s Argentina coterie, which has been expanded this season with prop Lucio Sordoni joining Cancelliere, Domingo Miotti and Enrique Pieretto.
“I spend time with all the other Argies, even Boff in Edinburgh,” said Cancelliere. “Sometimes he comes to stay with us if he has the weekend off or the other way around. So he’s a really good friend of ours. We have a nice group, a good bunch of Argies here in Scotland.”