ROB Harley has admitted that revenge will be very much at the top of Glasgow’s agenda when they host champions Leinster, at Scotstoun, in tonight’s 5.15pm kick-off.
It has been almost four months since the Dubliners handed out a painful 34-12 defeat in the Pro12 final to an under-performing Glasgow side, which appeared to take stage-fright on their big night out at the Royal Dublin Showgrounds.
Thus Harley, who, at the tender age of just 24 will be making his 100th appearance for Glasgow this evening, had no qualms about admitting that revenge may well indeed prove to be a dish best served cold.
Yet the blindside flanker was also adamant that the Guinness Pro12’s game of the opening weekend has produced a fine opportunity to illustrate that Glasgow have learned lessons, particularly in defence, from that painful evening in Dublin.
Proof of progress in that department will come under intense scrutiny, with referee Nigel Owens all too often keen to let quick ball prevail no matter how the Irish side produce it.
But with Glasgow keen to emulate the five-game winning streak with which they started last season’s league campaign, Harley was in no mood to play down the importance of victorious start in front of a Scotstoun crowd, whose expectancy levels have soared after last term’s heroics.
“We’re definitely going to use revenge as a motivating factor for us, but I think with this squad having had that game we’re more focused on what we can do this year,”
Harley continued: “But there’s really no better way to start than hosting the champions.
“They have been the benchmark for so long now and they are the ultimate test but we have the knowledge that we beat them at Scotstoun last season in the league and so we know we have that in our locker.”
In terms of the areas where improvement will have to materialise, the candid Harley admits that his side have worked long and hard on their defensive shape.
“There’s a few areas Leinster did really well, pace of the game, the way they challenged our defence and that’s probably why it’s good to have them first up because we’ve worked very hard on our shape and contact work, our defence as well,” confessed Harley. He added: “So it gives us a chance to put those lessons into action immediately.
“Obviously it would be great to get the first win, but, at the same time, there’s a whole season to go.
“It’s a cliché but, it’ll be one game at a time as it’s a long season and you can’t tell if the best teams are going to be the same as in previous seasons.”
There is a pleasing symmetry about Harley’s 100th bow for Warriors tonight.
It was on 17 September 2010, in the season opener at Firhill that he made his debut against the same exalted opposition in a 22-19 success against the men from the Emerald Isle.
It has clearly been a case of tempus fugit for the Glasgow centurion.
“It doesn’t seem that long ago I was coming on at Firhill for the first time. Actually, it’s not that long ago I was sitting in the stands at Firhill, watching the team. So it’s a little bit of a shock to reach 100 so soon, admitted Harley.
He continued: I don’t remember when my debut was. I’m not too sure actually. I remember a few matches from the first season and probably just being shocked by the speed of pro rugby.
“So I guess I’ve been, touch wood, lucky with injuries so far and a big part of that is the physio team here and that’s a big part of how I’ve got to 100.”
Meanwhile, Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend has played down an injury crisis that means 14 players, including late call-offs Lions wing Sean Maitland and Scotland stand-off Duncan Weir, are unavailable for the big kick-off.
Townsend revealed: “At the beginning of the week I thought Duncy would definitely be out as his knee was swollen but that came down and in the middle of the week he was able to train only for the swelling to come back.
“If it had been a game later in the season we may have played him but there is no need to risk Duncy and leave him open to further injury at this stage.
“It is the same with Sean Maitland. He is coming back from injury and he has irritated an Achilles and didn’t train yesterday so we won’t take a chance with Sean either.
“With regard to the rest we knew about a lot of them, guys like Ryan Wilson, Ryan Grant, Al Kellock were not involved in our pre-season games.”
Despite the ravages of injury, Glasgow will have eight of the starting line-up that took the field at the RDS back in May in place tonight, although there are positional switches within that configuration.
Particularly up front Townsend has gambled with youth by deploying Alex Allan at loose-head and Fraser Brown at hooker, who will scrum down alongside the venerable Euan Murray.
“Alex Allan and Fraser Brown have been capped by Scotland. They played well against a very good Harlequins front row. They are in great form,” straight-batted Townsend.
He concluded: “We know that things might not go totally fluently. It is the first game of the season, there are new combinations and the season is over 20 games, so it is about being consistent throughout.”
15 P Murchie
14 T Seymour
13 M Bennett
12 A Dunbar
11 L Jones
10 P Horne
9 H Pyrgos
1 A Allan
2 F Brown
3 E Murray
4 L Nakarawa
5 J Gray
6 R Harley
7 C Fusaro
8 J Strauss (c)
16 P MacArthur
17 G Reid
18 R de Klerk
19 T Swinson
20 A Ashe
21 N Matawalu
22 S Hogg
23 S Lamont
15 Z Kirchner
14 F McFadden
13 B Macken
12 N Reid
11 D Fanning
10 J Gopperth
9 I Boss
1 C Healy
2 S Cronin
3 M Ross
4 B Marshall
5 M McCarthy
6 D Ryan
7 S Jennings
8 S O’Brien (c)
16 B Byrne
17 J McGrath
18 T Furlong
19 T Denton
20 K McLaughlin
21 L McGrath
22 I Madigan
23 M McGrath
• More than 5,000 tickets have been sold for tonight’s game, but standing tickets in the terrace are still available priced at £15 for adults, £10 for students and £5 for under-18s in advance from www.glasgowwarriors.org.