Rob Harley eyes Euro progress to go with landmark 200th game

Glasgow Warriors' Rob Harley. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS/SRU
Glasgow Warriors' Rob Harley. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS/SRU
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While every Glasgow Warrior will be crossing fingers that Dave Rennie picks him to start Sunday’s key Champions Cup match against Cardiff, one player has a little added incentive to take to the field.

In an age of mass migration, Rob Harley is a one-club man and should the flanker/lock take to the field at Scotstoun this weekend it will mark his 200th appearance in Glasgow colours.

He is already the Warriors’ most experienced player, having passed Graeme Morrison’s 178 match mark a year ago and he has been handed a new lease of life this season with a regular berth in the second row.

It has been quite a journey for Harley, still only 28 years old, who has been with Glasgow long enough to remember their less than glorious past with the itinerant club training wherever they hung their hat before settling at Scotstoun in 2012.

“My first season was very hard,” he replies when asked about the bad times. “We finished second bottom in the league and we lost an awful lot. It was hard to come into that.

“As a squad we kind of looked at that and we said; ‘We are not doing what we have to do. We have to make a massive change in order to achieve things,’ and fortunately since then we have found our legs.”

His highlight was the obvious one, the Pro12 championship-winning season of 2014-15 which saw them defeat Munster in the final. Harley popped up with a try even if, as he modestly insists, “Naksi [Leone Nakarawa] beat six defenders and then passed the ball to me”.

Glasgow have become a force to be reckoned with in the Pro12/14 but Europe is another country. Only once have Glasgow won through to the quarter-finals. It has left the ginger-topped veteran with a healthy regard for that elusive last-eight spot that Glasgow can almost smell.

“It is a big milestone and it’s a measure of achievement, of being one of the best clubs in Europe. That drives us to go on. We have a chance this year to go on and do that, so it is a driver for us,” he added.

A win on Sunday would 
represent a huge step towards the quarter-finals but the Warriors must rediscover their form after a run of three defeats in a row.

“We have not played very well in the last few league games so that gives us a challenge of finding form again, I guess,” said Harley. “But it’s reassuring that we have that European success [thus far] under our belt so it’s definitely achievable for us, it’s just sorting out small details and making sure that we return and put that into a good performance at Scotstoun.

“I think there is frustration at the way we have played the last few weeks. We know there is a lot of work to do and how we have got to improve but because we are in a good position in Europe that just means that that [a place in the quarter-finals] is within reach for us.”

Harley is one the smarter bears in the Warriors’ woods, educated and erudite, and 
he looks a little nonplussed when someone mentions Glasgow coach Kenny Murray’s exhortation to the players to revert to a gang mentality, at least when it comes to defensive duties.

“It’s not really my background,” said Harley. “One of our physios sent me an article last week about how Glasgow turned it around from the British capital of knife crime to [being] the safest city within a few years. So I am not sure it [gang mentality] represents the city as a whole.

“I think what he is saying is that we all protect each other and have each other’s backs, hunting as a pack, that is what applies and that is what we are trying to get from our defence, that we are ferocious and that we all work together.”