Glasgow face Hastings v Horne dilemma at No 10 for Euro clash

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Peter Horne can hardly be blamed but the amicable midfielder finds himself in the centre of a selection storm just days away from the biggest match of Glasgow’s season to date.

The player, who is comfortable at 10, 12 or even 15 at a pinch, has come back into the reckoning for Glasgow’s No 10 jersey after a couple of hesitant performances from his sometime understudy Adam Hastings, pictured inset.

It may just be the biggest call that coach Dave Rennie has had to make in his time with Glasgow because, should the Warriors lose Sunday’s home Champions Cup pool match against Cardiff, their hopes of a second quarter-final appearance in Europe’s premier club competition would rest upon winning next weekend at Saracens’ Allianz Stadium, not a boast many visiting teams can make.

Horne says he has offering his support to Hastings. “Yeah, I’ve been trying to,” he said. “Adam’s had a great start to the season. He’s been playing really well. When I play outside of him, it’s just about trying to make his life easier. It’s about communicating well with each other and trying to take a bit of the pressure off him.

“We all could give him a bit more of a hand in terms of the last couple of weeks but Adam’s fine. His confidence is still there. He’s obviously very dangerous on the ball and it won’t take much for him to get back to his top form.”

Does Rennie bench Hastings, the better attacking option in a match where Glasgow need all five points, but a player who has lost the spring in his step after three successive defeats and some sloppy play, especially near his own tryline?

The coach has to balance further undermining Hastings’ confidence against the knowledge that Horne’s more balanced approach to game management may well be enough against what visiting skipper Matthew Rees, on his return from injury, has already conceded will be an understrength Cardiff Blues side.

Put that way, Rennie should go with the safer of the two options, with Hastings on the bench to chase the late bonus. Whatever the outcome, Horne declares himself in boy scout mode.

“Yeah, if need be, I’m ready,” he says. “At the start of the season, I played pretty much entirely at 12. Just before the autumn, I played at 10 against Munster and then I played there again just after the autumn in the league game against Cardiff.

“I’ve got a couple of 80 minutes in where we played quite well. I know life gets easier when you get consistency in a position. When you move from 12 to 10 you just get the ball a little bit more. I’m pretty clear, I’ll just do all my prep this week and try and let things go. We’ll see what happens. Who knows what Rens is planning on doing with the team?”

Glasgow Warriors find themselves in an unusual position on two fronts. Qualification for the European quarters is in their own hands with two matches still to play, which is encouraging news, but the Warriors have lost three successive league matches for the first time since the end of last season, although that particular run included the Pro14 semi-final defeat by the Scarlets.

They have little to play for but Cardiff will still be dangerous opponents at Scotstoun. It is dependent upon who is selected in their back row, but the visitors have plenty of poachers in their ranks, especially Josh Navidi, Josh Turnbull and Olly Robinson (son of former Edinburgh and Scotland coach Andy) all of whom helped end the Scarlets’ 27-month unbeaten league run at Parc Y Scarlets a few weeks ago.

But it is not obvious that Cardiff will have to fight terribly hard for Glasgow’s ball since Rennie’s side cough it up meekly enough as it is, with turnovers undermining plenty of good approach work in recent games.

“We need to look after the ball a bit better because we’ve struggled with that recently,” admits Horne. “We’ve made over 20 handling errors in each of the last three games. That just kills us. It means we can’t get any consistency or build pressure on teams. It also stops us from showcasing our fitness.

“It also comes down to individual decision-making. We are quite guilty of saying the right things. Everyone will say we need to look after the ball and be more accurate. Then we go out and pull stuff out of our backsides, poor offloads, and chuck away 50-50 balls that aren’t on.”

So, apart from ball retention, decision making, ruck speed, confidence, momentum and finding a stand-off to stand up and be counted, Glasgow have nothing to worry about.

“We are going into this game with all to play for, which is really nice,” adds Horne, accentuating the positives.

“Normally for the last few years, the games [in Europe] have almost been a dead-rubber by this point so it’s great. We’re really excited and it’s a change from the other competition.

“You can always tell it’s a European week. The intensity picks up, the focus is there and you can feel it around the club that these are games everyone wants to be involved in.”

Everyone including Horne and Hastings, although one of them looks destined for disappointment when the team is announced today.