Glasgow centre Alex Dunbar ready to tackle childhood heroes

Glasgow Warriors' Alex Dunbar is relishing this weekend's clash with Racing 92. Picture: Ross Brownlee/SNS/SRU
Glasgow Warriors' Alex Dunbar is relishing this weekend's clash with Racing 92. Picture: Ross Brownlee/SNS/SRU
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Gregor Townsend was reluctant to give away too much about the 23-man Glasgow squad that will face Racing 92 on Saturday beyond the bleeding obvious.

Peter Horne and Rory Hughes will not be in the mix as a press release from the club had just confirmed that both men were due a visit to the sawbones after being carted off Scotstoun’s pitch during last Friday’s match against Munster with ankle and knee injuries respectively; Horne will be sidelined for 16 weeks.

Townsend has some serious head scratching to do before picking this crucial squad of players including who partners Jonny Gray in the second row, the make-up of the breakaway trio and whether to stick with the form nine in Ali Price with co-captain 
Henry Pyrgos fit again. At least the Warriors’ brains trust won’t waste too much time debating the No 12 shirt, Alex Dunbar will start at inside centre sure as eggs is eggs.

The Scotland No 13 comes back into the Glasgow reckoning after playing in all three of the autumn internationals. If Dunbar was somewhat overshadowed in attack by his new midfield partner Huw Jones who scored two tries against the Wallabies and made Sean Maitland’s touchdown against the Pumas, he underlined his importance in defence.

Towards the end of the Wallaby match he was cramping up, forcing the Scotland coaching staff to replace him with his Glasgow team-mate Horne and a flying Tevita Kuridrani scored the winner down the No 12 channel.

With a week’s holiday to refresh his body and spirit, “took the dog for a walk, set out when it got light, came back when it got dark”, the quietly spoken farmer’s boy is looking forward to testing himself against several childhood heroes.

“It is good to play against the best,” he says. “You watch [Dan] Carter and [Joe] Rokocoko when you are a young kid coming through in your early teens. These are the guys you watch on TV all the time. It is good to play against them.

“We have looked at some clips of their game this season so we know how big a task it will be. At times they have not been performing at the high level they have been in previous years but they are a quality team with top class individuals so we fully expect them to turn it on and for it to be a great game.

“It starts up front. They have a massive forward pack and they want to get these boys into the game, scrum, line-outs. With the ball carriers they want to get over the gainline and into second and third phase. We know how big a task it will be but we have to go out there and play our game.”

If Racing are a little vulnerable as Dunbar suggests it is because the reigning French champions have managed just seven wins from 13 Top 14 outings this season.

But the bald statistics can be misleading because the Parisian team has a 100 per cent winning record in their last season at Stade Yves du Manoir in Colombes, before they move to a purpose build stadium in La Defense.

Against that Glasgow come into this European tie on the back of three consecutive league losses, the first time it has happened on Townsend’s watch, and a crisis of confidence that the returning internationals, Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Dunbar himself must turn around.

“When you look at the games [we lost] we have had chances and created a few overlaps and mismatches but just never really took the chances we had,” the centre argues.

“We reviewed the game against Munster and looking at the Ospreys game the week before we need to start taking our chances and be more clinical.

“We can’t start as slow as that [against Munster] and let teams of that quality into the game early on. Against these teams in the first 20 minutes it is an uphill battle from then on so we know we have to start well against Racing 92 to win the game.”

Glasgow need to start well, finish well and hold their own in the middle of this match to stand any chance of winning precious European points on the road.