Scrum-half Ali Price believes Glasgow Warriors have learned the lessons from their defeat at Munster earlier in the European campaign and can turn the tables on the Irish province in this Saturday’s huge Champions Cup showdown at Scotstoun.
The Warriors suffered one of their most comprehensive defeats in years last October when they were thumped 38-17 in a match emotionally charged by the shocking death of the Munster coach and legendary former player Anthony Foley the previous week. The Scots bounced back with a rousing double over French giants Racing 92 but that loss at a raw Thomond Park means Gregor Townsend’s men are still playing catch-up in Pool 1, three points behind the leaders heading into this weekend’s crunch clash.
Price came on as a 48th-minute replacement for Henry Pyrgos that afternoon in Limerick and, since then, has enjoyed a sparkling run of form which has seen him earn a first Scotland cap and seriously challenge his co-captain for the Glasgow No 9 jersey.
The 23-year-old’s brilliant form, which included tries in both wins over Racing, has been rewarded by the Scotstoun faithful, who have voted him McCrea Financial Services “Warrior of the Month” for December and he is hoping that January proves equally fruitful for himself and the club. “We got caught a bit cold the last time, it was obviously a big occasion over in Limerick,” reflected Price. “They kind of blew us away the first hour of the game and that was kind of it. It was put to bed.
“We know this is going to be a huge game on Saturday. It’s going to be like a winner takes all effectively. We’re at home and the crowd have been magnificent the past few home games and we’ll be looking for them to bring the noise again.
“I’m sure if we match their intensity and physicality we can hopefully get the right result.”
In what has been a stellar few weeks for Glasgow, culminating in a return to the Guinness Pro12 top four with Saturday’s 29-15 home win over Cardiff Blues, Price said he was delighted with his player of the month award ahead of fellow nominees Finn Russell, Tim Swinson, Alex Dunbar and Jonny Gray. “It’s really good to get the recognition from the supporters that your hard work is getting recognised,” he said. “All the other guys who got nominated had an incredible December. In fact the whole squad has. The results have been really good and changed the momentum of our season.”
Price admitted that the time he spent as part of the Scotland squad during the autumn Test series, getting a maiden cap off the bench against Georgia at Rugby Park and creating a try for Stuart Hogg with an electric break from deep, has given him a huge surge in self-belief.
“It was my first involvement and just from an experience point of view I learned a hell of a lot that month, especially off [Scotland captain] Greig [Laidlaw],” he reflected.
“I felt it helped my game management and really built up my confidence and to get that run at the end against Georgia topped off my month away with the national side and I came back here full of confidence.”
Price said he has benefited hugely from working with Scotland’s most-capped scrum-half Mike Blair who is now on the Glasgow coaching staff after playing the last season of his career at the club last term.
“Mike’s been great. He helps me in training every day with little pointers and techniques,” said Price. “He’s really helped with my kicking and probably my positioning whether it be in attack or defence. He’s pointed out little things to me, whether it’s tracking in defence or approaching in the ruck, where to put my feet, stuff like that.
“I think my consistency has got much better. I’m looking to play every game to the same standard and I’m learning every week with my game management.”
Blair is too modest to take any credit for Price’s impressive breakthrough this season but is glowing in his praise of the youngster. “No I take no credit, apart from the fact my retirement has given him an opportunity,” said the assistant coach with a smile. “Ali has been in great form. We are really fortunate with the nines we have at the club, we have four frontline players plus George Horne available, though he is away with the sevens a lot. We have great strength in depth there.
“Henry is a co-captain, Grayson [Hart] has been capped by Scotland, Nemia Kenatale has been capped by Fiji and is involved. The players push themselves on to perform. Ali has taken his chance really well. He has pushed his performance on from where it was last year. Last year he was a very talented young player starting to get some game time but now we are starting to see experienced game management starting to come into his game as well.”
Of course every scrum-half needs talent outside him to make the most of his service and, in Russell, Price hasn’t lacked for a useful half-back partner, with the Scotland playmaker in the form of his life.
“Finn’s been playing really well. He’s such an inventive player and creates a lot of opportunities for us in attack,” said Price. “That’s great for me as a nine, he’s a good communicator with me. He’s been brilliant in leading our attack and creating good scoring opportunities for us.”