Matt Fagerson believes Glasgow have rediscovered true grit

Matt Fagerson is confident that, after a few flimsy performances earlier in the 
season, the grit is coming back to Glasgow.

Matt Fagerson takes on the La Rochelle defence during Glasgow's Champions Cup win in France. Picture: Xavier Leoty/AFP via Getty

It was certainly there in their Champions Cup win at La Rochelle last week, and it will be needed every bit as much when the French team visit Scotstoun tomorrow.

The ability to dig deep and win in adversity is something the Warriors do not always get sufficient credit for – their penchant for the spectacular score is their trademark, and tends to be appreciated far more.

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But Fagerson believes that his team’s best results have been characterised above all by a combative physicality, in which the unglamorous work of the pack has been the determining factor, and that after a slow start the Warriors are building up a head of steam as the critical stage of the season approaches.

“Towards the end of last season we found our mojo where we had to dig quite deep,” the back-row forward said. “It might have looked flashy when we came away with 50 points against Ulster in the [Pro14] semi-final, but a lot of that came off brutal, physical carries, brutal cleans and all the nasty stuff people don’t like to talk about. There is a proper grit about the team.

“Compared to last season maybe the physicality has not been there. [But] when we’ve had really good wins this season like the one against Sale, our forwards have done a massive effort. At times people can view us as a flashy team, but they don’t see the hard grit. We have 100 per cent lineout in the Champions Cup and I think we had that last year as well, but people don’t always notice that. The grit that boys had towards the end of last 
season is coming back.

“Sale, the first half was a pretty horrible game, so we had to show some grit, come out with a win in that one,” Fagerson continued, referring to the home Champions Cup win. “It was the same there [in La Rochelle] to come back from 18-6 at one point, to score before half-time, then score again... We showed a lot of determination to come back, boys putting their bodies on the line. It was touch and go at times; we let them have an early lead. Especially at the end it was pretty nerve-wracking, but it shows the grit the boys had. We had to dig deep to pull it out of the bag.”

Replacement scrum-half Ali Price’s try-denying tackle late in the 27-24 win over La Rochelle showed it was not only Glasgow’s forwards who were able to dig deep, and Fagerson explained that the squad will be prepared to put in a similar all-round effort tomorrow.

A third straight defeat may have put La Rochelle out of the reckoning in Pool Two, but Glasgow, six points behind leaders Exeter with three games to play, will take nothing for granted even if their opponents field a weakened team.

“We’ll train for the best team that La Rochelle can put out,” said Fagerson. “We won’t look at it and think ‘Oh, they’ve put out a B team, so it’s fine, we can do this and that, change up and start chucking offloads everywhere’.

“We came off after Saturday and a win away in France still a bit upset with the way we played, the way the team played, in letting them get such an early lead. We have a massive job to do this weekend, especially in front of our home crowd. We have to put on a show.”