Dave Rennie is usually disinclined to indulge in the pre-match mind games of which Richard Cockerill is so fond, but on the eve of the season’s first 1872 Cup match, the Glasgow coach could not resist having a subtle dig at his Edinburgh rival.
Earlier in the week, Cockerill urged today’s referee, Ben Blain, to beware Glasgow’s “shouting and whingeing” and insisted that the Warriors – “clearly a much better team than us” – had to be regarded as favourites for the game at Scotstoun. Rennie’s response yesterday was to dismiss the debate about favourites as irrelevant, and to suggest that Cockerill was perhaps not in the best position to accuse anyone else of shouting or whingeing.
“He would know, wouldn’t he?” the Warriors coach said. “It doesn’t worry me whether we’re the favourites or they are. I don’t really care. Ultimately, it’s just individual opinion.”
It is, but Cockerill clearly feels that his own team perform best when billed as underdogs, and maybe also sees that Glasgow, in some need of a good result after underperforming in both the Pro14 and Europe, will not respond well to being labelled as favourites. However, Rennie, while not attempting to deny that recent results have been disappointing, believes there is no need to push the panic button – and suggested that Glasgow’s changed situation this season could actually work in their favour this evening.
“It’s not backs to the wall. Obviously we’re not happy with where we’re at in either of those comps. Historically we’ve been well clear in Pro14 at this time of year. I always wonder whether that’s why we seem to lack a little bit of edge going into these games. That shouldn’t be the case this year.
“It’s a big game for us – it’s a big game for both clubs. I would expect to see the urgency – I’d certainly use the word urgency rather than desperation – that’s required for this situation.”
There is a delicate balance to be found here, because if anything the Warriors showed too much urgency in their Champions Cup tie against La Rochelle last week. Despite having ample possession in the second half of a game played out in terrible conditions, Rennie’s team failed to maintain their composure at vital times and lost the match 12-7, inflicting serious damage on their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
“We obviously didn’t play very well with the wind,” the coach acknowledged. “We couldn’t dominate territory and we couldn’t dominate the ball. There were some clear, simple kicking options that would have helped us play at the right end of the field.
“In the second half I thought we were really good, but we weren’t clinical enough. We have sat down and shown the boys the multitude of options and opportunities we had to put them away.
“As we have been doing over the last month, we created a lot of opportunities, but we need to be more clinical about turning pressure into points. There has been a good edge about training, we’ve prepared well, but we need to be more clinical. That’s going to be important, because you don’t get a lot of opportunities against sides like Edinburgh.
“Our scrum has been excellent. We’ve performed really well in Europe and when it’s a pushing contest and teams aren’t allowed to walk left, we’ve been dominant. Our lineout’s been excellent – our lineout drive and especially our defensive lineout has been great.”
Meanwhile, Rennie tacitly admitted that the Warriors are still playing a waiting game over Leone Nakarawa. They have made an offer to their former lock, who is a free agent after having his contract ended by Racing 92, but while there have been some encouraging noises, they cannot yet be confident that he will join them for the rest of the season.
“There’s been more discussion. I assume his people are having discussions with multiple groups. We’ve got nothing to announce: there’s nothing signed or agreed upon.
“I’m not sure,” he continued when asked if he thought the two parties had moved closer to an agreement over the past week. “I’ve spoken to Leone. I don’t know. He’s tight with the boys here, he loved his time here in Glasgow, so this would be a good fit. I guess there are other considerations.”