Failures drive Kellock in bid to end Euro hoodoo

Alastair Kellock makes his 50th Heineken Cup appearance when he faces Cardiff tonight. Picture: SNS/SRU
Alastair Kellock makes his 50th Heineken Cup appearance when he faces Cardiff tonight. Picture: SNS/SRU
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ALastair Kellock will reach a personal landmark when he leads Glasgow out to play Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park tonight. It will be the big lock’s 50th appearance in the Heineken Cup, which is a fine achievement by anyone’s standards.

But, rather than being a cause for celebration, the 32-year-old says that his over-riding emotion when looking back at a long European career is frustration.

Kellock has, of course, experienced a few isolated moments of Heineken glory over the years (like that incredible afternoon in France five seasons ago, when the Warriors confounded all expectations to snatch a sensational 33-26 victory over mighty Toulouse in their own backyard), but the fact that Glasgow have never made it beyond the group stage of European club rugby’s flagship competition clearly weighs heavily on Kellock’s mind.

He might have appeared seven times off the bench during Edinburgh’s march to the quarter-finals back in 2004 – but Kellock is very much a Glasgow boy, and as captain of the club since moving home in 2006, he takes it personally that they have yet to emulate their capital rivals in making it into the last eight.

So, while Kellock insists this is no time for looking backwards, he is intent on feeding off the pain of previous failures as his team look to finally break their European hoodoo this season.

“Of course it is an honour to play 50 times in Europe and I like to think I have a few more in me yet, but the thing that is missing for me from my European record is helping Glasgow qualify for the knockout stages,’ he said.

“We have been inconsistent at the group stages in the past and we need to change that,” Kellock continued. ‘This year could be the year that happens, as the current group is wide open. Obviously, a win tonight would set us up to qualify but we will be facing a tough Cardiff team who have given us problems in the past.”

Glasgow’s pool is currently wide open, with all four teams having won a game and lost a game, so the next two rounds of matches look certain to be crucial in sorting out the genuine contenders from the also-rans.

With that in mind, coach Gregor Townsend is hoping that Scotland international centre Alex Dunbar will provide Glasgow’s midfield with an important focal point, despite the fact that this is his first competitive appearance at any level since picking up a neck/shoulder injury seven weeks ago.

“He has worked really hard in training. He could have been available last week, but we felt that he just needed a little bit more work in the gym where he has been going really well for the past two weeks,” explained Townsend. “It’s great to see him back again. He was in excellent form before his injury and he is in great nick again. We play a lot of games at training and we do full contact as well so he has been well tested over the last couple of weeks.”

With Sean Maitland back after being given a week to recover from his exertions with Scotland in the autumn internationals, while DTH van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg are retained on the left wing and at full-back respectively, the Warriors have a potent looking back three which should be ideally suited to the artificial 3G pitch in Cardiff – so long as they manage to get these dangerous strike runners into the game.

“The nature of their pitch means that it should be a faster game for both teams, but they hold on to the ball a lot, and they lead the stats in our league for time in possession so we know we’re going to have to defend and try to get the ball back off them,” said Townsend. “I thought we played a lot of good rugby last week, moving the Ospreys around, and we need to build on that this week.”

Townsend has opted for a split of six forwards and two backs on the bench. This opens up the threat of the team being left exposed by injuries in the back line, but the coach reckons that this risk is worth taking in light of the potential reward of having so many big hitters coming into the pack during the final quarter of the match.

“It’s what we have done in the last three games and, against Connacht, the two backs didn’t come on at all. We obviously have scenarios in mind to deal with the possibility of having more than two backs injured with forwards like Ryan Wilson being able to fill in at centre if necessary. The good thing is that we have flexible players as well. Nikola [Matawalu] has played at full-back and on the wing as well as scrum-half, so there are players who can move positions, which is great,’ he explained.

“It is a big challenge to the starting back row to really put everything out there and close down Cardiff if they are going through the phases against us, so it’s reassuring to know that we have another open-side and a No 8 on the bench, while Leone Nakarawa can cover six as well as second row.

“The reason we have six forwards on the bench is to make sure they can come on and make an impact. Over the past few weeks our subs have all done really well when they’ve come on.”



15 L Halfpenny

14 A Cuthbert

13 R Smith

12 D Hewitt

11 H Robinson

10 R Patchell

9 L Williams

1 S Hobbs

2 K Dacey

3 T Filise

4 C Dicomidis

5 F Paulo

6 M Cook

7 R Watts-Jones

8 R Copeland


16 M Breeze

17 T Davies

18 B Bourrust

19 L Hamilton

20 E Jenkins

21 L Jones

22 G Davies

23 D Fish


15 S Hogg

14 S Maitland

13 G Ascarate

12 A Dunbar

11 D van der Merwe

10 D Weir

9 N Matawalu

1 R Grant

2 D Hall

3 M Low

4 T Ryder

5 A Kellock (Capt)

6 R Harley

7 C Fusaro

8 J Strauss


16 P MacArthur

17 J Welsh

18 E Kalman

19 L Nakarawa

20 T Holmes

21 R Wilson

22 C Cusiter

23 R Jackson