Dave Rennie seeks razor sharp Glasgow focus for Saracens tie

Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie, with new signing Petrus du Plessis. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS
Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie, with new signing Petrus du Plessis. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS
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Glasgow coach Dave Rennie admits that the cruise control which can sometimes be enough to get by in the Guinness Pro14 is not an option when his side find themselves in the high intensity of Heineken Champions Cup action.

The Warriors face English giants and two-time European champions Saracens in Sunday’s mouth-watering Pool 3 opener at Scotstoun and the coach knows only a complete performance will see them emerge with a positive start.

“What we know is in our competition [Pro14] you can operate at less than 100 per cent and still get a job done, but you can’t in Europe,” was the Kiwi’s simple assessment.

Rennie was given a baptism of fire in Europe’s premier club competition last season when a perfect start to the Pro14 contrasted starkly with a Champions Cup campaign which ended with just win from five in a pool also containing eventual champions Leinster, Montpellier and Exter Chiefs.

This season Glasgow are drawn with Sarries, Cardiff Blues and Lyon. with Rennie anticipating a formidable challenge in Sunday’s opener.

“They’re a quality side - there’s not too many weaknesses, is there?” he said of the London club. “We’ve made some good shifts in our game, we think. Our setpiece has been really strong bar last weekend [against Zebre] and that’s probably not a bad thing – we need to fine tune that. But what Saracens are very good at is looking after the ball and going multi phase. They bring a lot of line speed and try and choke you defensively. Looking after the ball will be massive. Not only do they defend very well, they’ve got big men who carry hard and we’re going to have to meet that challenge and that’s exciting.”

Glasgow have made a decent start to the Pro14 aside from that stinker they put in against Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth without exactly setting the heather on fire just yet. Sunday’s blockbuster would be an appropriate time for the Warriors to click into top gear and provide the kind of thrills the Scotstoun faithful have grown to expect in recent years.

“I’m a coach, so I’ll always worry, but we’ve worked really hard and we think we’ve made some shifts in our game against good sides,” said Rennie. Though you’ve got to be consistent for 80 minutes. I harp back to Munster when we played them [a 25-10 home win last month], probably the biggest-name team we’ve played so far [this season], and our preparation was excellent and the line speed was great and that’s what you need in big games. We’re going to have to replicate that.

“Saracens will ask a lot of questions of us, but it’s what you want. We want to play against the best sides in Europe and find out a bit about ourselves. It’s a great challenge.”

Rennie admitted that Kings shocker, when Glasgow were blown away before pegging back in a shock 38-28 defeat, still rankles but expects a completely different mindset from his men at the weekend.

“I don’t think it will ever go away,” said the Kiwi of that Kings loss. “It’s something to refer back to. Clearly it was a pretty disappointing performance and those that came off the bench were fantastic that day, but we were so far behind that we made it difficult for ourselves. Little hiccups like that are not a bad thing. You get them early in the year, it’s a good reminder. Certainly there’s no worry about complacency heading into a game against a team like Saracens, that’s for sure.”

Rennie was speaking from Largs, where he has taken his squad this week to prepare for Sunday’s big game.

“We just wanted to do something different,” he said. “Just to try and obviously make this competition special, a chance to spend a little more time together.”