Stuart Hogg returns as Glasgow coach focuses on performance

Stuart Hogg will makes his comeback for Glasgow against Exeter. Picture: SNS/SRU
Stuart Hogg will makes his comeback for Glasgow against Exeter. Picture: SNS/SRU
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Scotstoun’s answer to the Seventh Cavalry came thundering over the hill, too late to save Glasgow’s woebegone European campaign but perhaps still able to salvage some pride against the Chiefs. The 
Warriors last went without a win in Europe 13 years ago, in season 2004/05.

The charge was led by full-back Stuart Hogg who has timed his Six Nations run to perfection after recovering from a hip problem and all fingers are crossed that the full-back makes it through this afternoon’s tie unscathed.

He was joined in an exciting looking back division by Scottish duo Tommy Seymour and Alex Dunbar and their Italian colleague Leo Sarto. Finn Russell fills the No 10 shirt outside of George Horne who must put the disappointment of missing the Six Nations cut behind him and put his best foot forward.

The only change to the forward pack that got their backsides felt by an excellent Leinster eight last Sunday is the inclusion of Jonny Gray in the second row at the expense of Greg Peterson.

Was it important, coach Dave 
Rennie was quizzed, to make a statement after conceding 55 points in Dublin?

“Last week was hugely disappointing mainly for the way we defended,” said Rennie, pictured. “It was around little combinations and decision making and so on and we got exposed by a bloody good side. It is rugby at this level, if you are a couple of cogs off where you need to be and the other side is hot then you can get a hiding.

“A lot of the guys that we have brought back in have an international series that they are about to go into so they are all very enthusiastic and keen to get back on the pitch and get a bit of form heading into that. It is nice to have that firepower and experience back.

“We’ve said all along this is a tough pool. We’ve seen a number of Pro14 teams do really well in other pools but it’s been good for us, just deciding where we need to be. Parts of our game need to be better and we’ve been tested so we know that Exeter are coming here, looking to grab five points to qualify so they’ll be up for it. We don’t look at this as a dead rubber, the result is irrelevant from our point of view but we are looking to put in a quality performance, if we can do that then we are in with a shot.”

While it is tempting to write off Glasgow for whom, as Rennie repeatedly reminded us, the result was irrelevant they won’t want a spanking at Scotstoun and there were at least two shocks last weekend which will give the Warriors some hope.

With nothing to play for Harlequins beats Wasps at the death in a nail biter of a match, helped by James Haskell’s red card, and Northampton Saints, in the same boat as Quins, somehow bested French giants Clermont with the most spirited performance of the season so far. Might Glasgow be suitably inspired?

“We want to perform well every week,” said Rennie. “We are going to disband for a few days after this game. The Scottish boys, the international boys including Leo [Sarto] will head off after this game and we will have ten days off. Then we come back in with a week and a half to prepare for the Dragons.

“Look, the result is probably irrelevant, it’s the quality of the performance that we are looking for. We have a pretty good side, so there is plenty of excitement, we have prepared well and we just need to put that on the park.”

When a coach talks down the result and focuses on the performance you can be sure he sees a defeat looming and that is probable with Exeter Chiefs still in with a shout of the quarters. In the opening game of Glasgow’s campaign at Sandy Park the Chiefs bossed the contact area and scored three tries from simple pick and drives, patiently waiting until the Scots ran out of energy or just bodies. A repeat performance from the English champions cannot be ruled out.

“That was the winning of the game last time,” Rennie conceded. “Three of their tries came from taking an inch at a time but we gave them seven five metre lineout attacking opportunities so we have to deny them the chance to put us in the corner. And they certainly got under us last time, they won the battle of body height and we’ve done a fair bit of work on that. Certainly we are being challenged on the European side of things.”

Might Glasgow’s international contingent already be focused on the weeks ahead rather than Exeter?

“I don’t think so,” said Rennie. “They are all passionate Glasgow men and they want to perform well for the jersey. Look, there is not a lot of heat on us this weekend so we just want to go out and express ourselves and show there is plenty of fight and play for each other. If we can see evidence of that we’ll have a reasonable day. We are playing against an excellent side with a lot of life and they will be desperate so we have to match that.”