Glasgow forward Rob Harley believes they have learned from the hiding they received at Saracens two seasons ago ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup Pool 3 between the sides at Scotstoun.
Back in April 2017 the Warriors headed down to north London with high hopes for their breakthrough appearance in the knockout stages of Europe’s premier club competition. However, in the last season before Gregor Townsend moved up to take the Scotland job, they were given a stern lesson on the business end of club rugby’s toughest competition as they were whipped 38-13 at Allianz Park.
Harley was on the field that day and said that those with memories of that Sunday afternoon masterclass are determined to put things right on their own patch against the side currently sitting joint top of England’s Gallagher Premiership.
“They play on an artificial pitch like us which is great for playing attacking rugby. We’d do a few things differently from that game,” said the lock/back-rower as he helped the Warriors charity link-up with the Glasgow Children’s Hospital.
“I’ve watched a bit of Saracens this season already and there will be more focused analysis this week. They’ve looked very good. They’ve got a big pack but also throw it wide and have dangerous runners. It’s a great challenge for us but that’s why we play the game – to get these opportunities.”
Harley is now a veteran of these campaigns and is relishing another shot at the Heineken Champions Cup in a pool which also contains Guinness Pro14 rivals Cardiff and French debutants Lyon.
“Obviously we play Cardiff in the league all the time and had them in Europe a few years ago,” said the Scotland international.
“It’s always a challenge getting out of the pool. We’ve seen over the last few years that it’s the highest standard of club rugby. Small, small margins matter. It’s concentrated down and every game has an intensity to it and can come down to maybe getting that bonus point. We hope to challenge.”
As a member of the Warriors charity committee, Harley has been heavily involved with the new partnership which will see visits to the hospital, tickets for games and merchandise to help their fundraising, and will also provide social media support around their events and campaigns.
Glasgow are also now accepting applications to become one of their official charities from next season, when they will support two charities as well as continuing to support Scottish Rugby’s charity partners. Harley said: “We’re looking forward to supporting Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity for the next couple of years.
“It is a local charity who we already have a relationship with. We visit them every Christmas, but this new partnership will allow us to extend our support to other parts of their fundraising activity, while we continue to visit the children on a regular basis.
“As a playing group we’ll support other projects and charities which are close to our hearts, but this partnership will help us build deeper relationships with a number of charities over a longer period of time.”
Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity chief operating officer Kirsten Sinclair added: “We are absolutely delighted to be the official charity partner of Glasgow Warriors. The Warriors have been fantastic supporters of Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity for some time, and their Christmas visit is always one of the highlights of the year for our young patients, their families and the staff at the hospital.”
Turning his thoughts back to Sunday’s game, Harley admitted a Heineken Champions Cup week brought an added energy to the squad and feels that a Warriors pack that had come under some criticism was ready for the daunting challenge of Sarries.
“The European games are huge. It’s exciting to play Saracens again. It’s a nice target for us to go further than we did in that game. The whole squad is excited by the opportunity,” said the 28-year-old.
“We are really pleased with how the pack has gone so far. We’ve set a bar at the scrum and we are consistently going forward against teams, winning penalties there.
“We’re trying to punish teams with our drive and have had a few tries from that in recent games. We’re not resting on our laurels but are pleased with the work we’ve done around the park.”