Heineken Cup: Glasgow look to learn from Toulon
The Warriors return to their home ground of Scotstoun where a new stand is in place at the east end, taking the capacity up to 6,500.
It is not quite the 15,000 Stade Mayol, the weather forecast suggests showers that did not feature in the south of France either and Exeter do not boast the welter of world legends of Toulon, but the Glasgow coach is eager to ensure his squad do not believe that a four-try finish last week will equate to a straightforward win over the Aviva Premiership visitors.
Glasgow also defeated Exeter at their Sandy Park in pre-season, but the Chiefs have picked up considerably since then and after a 44-29 defeat of Cardiff are one of the form sides in Europe.
“We learned a lot in Toulon about what we need to do against the very best teams,” he said. “We are playing a different team this week, but a team that is very much on form, and it’s the Heineken Cup where teams step up.
“We’ve played one game and picked up a point, which is one more than we had last year having played better down at Northampton, but we have to get something out of this game at the weekend.
“Exeter are playing a very, very good rugby. Their first 50 minutes last week were the best I’d seen from an English club in the last year.
“It was a lesson in how to look after ball, passing, pace on the ball, contact work, and they were relentless, and they played just as well the week before, getting a good win away to Gloucester.
“They know what they’re about, they want to attack space and will run the ball out of their 22, and the kick the ball a lot less than other English teams, so in many ways it’s like preparing for Leinster, a team that will keep ball because they’re efficient at the breakdown, and they’re not scared of moving it in their own 22. We will be really tested this weekend.”
Townsend has made eight changes to his side to Sunday’s game, and one positional switch with Tim Swinson returning, as expected, to the second row as Rob Harley comes back at blindside flanker. Pat MacArthur and Ed Kalman take over in the front row from Dougie Hall and Jon Welsh, Jonny Gray drops out for Swinson and South African flanker Tyrone Holmes takes over from Chris Fusaro, who is rested in line with player management protocols.
There are also four new faces in the back line: Niko Matawalu returning to scrum-half for Henry Pyrgos, with Chris Cusiter returning to the bench, and a new midfield of Gabriel Ascarate and Byron McGuigan – Alex Dunbar has a neck injury but could recover by next week – with two-try DTH van der Merwe on the left wing in place of Matawalu.
Reflecting on the lessons from the match in Toulon, Townsend admitted that he had sought to strike a balance this week in pinpointing player weakness in the first period – most notably in defence – and highlighting the quality of play in a second half that reduced a 34-0 half-time deficit to 13 points just after the hour, and secured a bonus point.
“As coaches we always look at the areas we can improve, and the negatives that we remember about how we gave the game away early on,” acknowledged Townsend.
“Maybe the people that watched may remember more the second half and the reaction from our players, and the tries we scored.
“But we know that we didn’t put our game in place, both in attack and defence, but particularly defence, though having watched the game a couple of times since, you have to say that some of the attacking play from Toulon was outstanding.
“It was like playing a very good international side, with off-loads going to hand, real pace on the ball, running lines that we probably hadn’t dealt with this year, so you make a little error in defence and where normally you can recover in a game like that it ends up being seven points [conceded].
“But the positives were the reaction. When you’re away from home and have conceded four tries in the first half you can go into your shells and feel sorry for yourselves, but the players came out, tackled much better, were more committed and attacked very well.
“We were actually frustrated as a group that after about 62 minutes we got back to 13 points behind and the crowd were whistling at Toulon, and then we gave away a penalty which killed the momentum.
“But we need to take the positives from that forward now. You need to take things out of the first two games because if you don’t it’s going to be very tough so we know the importance of this game.”
v Exeter Chiefs at Scotstoun
Sunday, kick-off 2pm
15 S Maitland
14 T Seymour
13 B McGuigan
12 G Ascarate
11 DTH van der Merwe
10 R Jackson
9 N Matawalu
1 R Grant
2 P MacArthur
3 E Kalman
4 T Swinson
5 A Kellock (captain)
6 R Harley
7 T Holmes
8 J Strauss
D Hall, J Yanuyanutawa, M Low, J Gray, R Vernon, C Cusiter, D Weir, M Bennett
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