Stuart Hogg rides to rescue of Glasgow’s European campaign

Glasgow Warriors' Stuart Hogg trains at Scotstoun. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS/SRU
Glasgow Warriors' Stuart Hogg trains at Scotstoun. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS/SRU
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Leinster may have Jonny 
Sexton and Sean O’Brien back in harness for Saturday’s crunch tie against Glasgow at Scotstoun but they are not the only ones to get a timely injury boost as Stuart Hogg looks set to make his first appearance of the season after injuring himself with the Lions in New Zealand and opting for surgery on a troublesome shoulder.

“Hoggy is running around and he is available for selection,” said Warriors backs’ coach Jason O’Halloran. “It is great (to have him back). He has great energy and 
enthusiasm.

“Ruaridh [Jackson] has played outstandingly in his absence but we felt we needed to get Hoggy in there this weekend. We would have liked to have brought him off the bench against Exeter but that was not available to us. He has done well in training and we are looking at him to be involved this weekend.”

As O’Halloran hinted full-back Hogg brings more than just his skills to bear on this Glasgow squad but also his enthusiasm and boundless optimism which the side needs after suffering their first defeat of the season.

The Warriors received a sobering lesson at Sandy Park where the forward pack that won the Aviva premiership last time out bullied them into submission. It was a typically brave display from Dave Rennie’s team but looking at the territory and possession stats they were a little lucky to be hang onto the Chiefs’ coat tails as long as they did

Glasgow have swept all before them in the Pro14, even if they have ridden their luck on a couple of occasions, but they struggled in the rarefied atmosphere of the Champions Cup which sometimes seems to be a different beast altogether.

“I think you have to change your game,” O’Halloran conceded. “In the domestic competition we have 21 games to iron out our game plan and get that right by May next year.

“Here in Europe you don’t get 21 games to get your game right. You have to be right from the word go. It means you have to be a bit more conservative.

“It is very much the way the European championship is being played. The Pro14 has been won by expansive teams in the last three campaigns, Glasgow, Connacht and Scarlets. This is a completely different competition it is win at all costs. It is more about winning the physical battle and trying to bully teams, particularly away from home. Winning by any means possible. If it means winning by multiples of three then that is how teams will go about it.”

Exeter are expansive by English standards but were happy to grind out an ugly win and it will be fascinating to see if Leinster try to copy them or whether the Dubliners stick to their own high tempo game in which they accelerate through the gears.

It won’t have escaped Glasgow’s notice that while Leinster bring the attacking threat of Jonny Sexton and Joey Carberry to Scotstoun they also boast both of the Lions Test props in Tadhg Furlong and Jack McGrath. Exeter milked easy penalties at the Glasgow set scrum, kicked to the corner and scored three tries. Leinster could do the same or they could hit you wide, they have options.

“They have won the European cup three times and won the Pro12 two years ago,” O’Halloran pointed out. “They are a good team steeped in success. I think having that history of success helps in tight games.

“We did not get it right the last 15 minutes against Exeter, we gave away a couple of crucial penalties. Leinster are very good at shutting games down. They have a good pack but can play a fast game of rugby if you show them space.

“Leinster like to play rugby so if you go overly (commit) round the fringes they will pick you apart (out wide). We need to be on guard.”

The return of talisman Hogg is timely for Glasgow, who have played well only in patches this season and need to find the complete performance, or something that looks very like it, if they are to maintain 
any interest in Europe beyond Saturday.