There are a host of unanswered questions hanging over tomorrow’s crunch tie between Glasgow Warriors and Leicester Tigers, but perhaps the most important one was addressed by the diminutive flanker Chris Fusaro, who personifies the Warriors’ fighting spirit.
How does the squad, Fusaro was asked, pick themselves off the floor after the heartbreak of losing to Munster in the final ten minutes, a match the home team dominated and probably should have put to bed?
“I think you just remain positive,” said the man known as “Fuzzy” and is anything but. “The leadership group, the core of players we have now, know what to do. We know what to do ourselves. A lot of good things have been said at training. We know that if we go there and win then we will qualify.
“They are a very proud team. Their record at home is pretty amazing so we are going down to Welford Road expecting a very different animal to what was up here. It’s quite a hostile ground, it’s a bit narrower, so I think they will try and target us up front again. It will be a very physical game down there.”
Game time has been hard to come by for the flanker. With the behemoths Brian Alainu’uese and Greg Peterson unavailable for selection, due to indiscipline and injury respectively, Gregor Townsend packed the third row of the scrum with big units against Munster. The net result is that Fusaro only got 12 minutes off the bench last weekend and he may have to be patient tomorrow, although Munster centre Francis Saili underlined the impact subs can make with his 73rd-minute try.
Welford Road poses unique problems. Leicester have lost just one of their last 34 European games at home. In stark contrast to Scotstoun’s pristine plastic, the pitch itself is something of a quagmire this time of year and, as Fusaro said, the field is narrower than Scotstoun. Or if it isn’t tonight it will be by 5:30 tomorrow evening if the head coach Aaron Mauger has any say in the matter. Still, the departure of long-standing boss Richard Cockerill may persuade the Tigers to chance their arm.
“They said themselves that Aaron Mauger and Richard Cockerill had different rugby philosophies,” Fusaro explained. “So, although they are set-piece-orientated I think they will try and throw it about a bit and play a more expansive game.”
Although he is just 27, Fusaro is classed as an old hand at Scotstoun these days after joining the club in 2010. He argues that the young guns may recover quicker from a physical standpoint but the psychological effort of getting motivated for another monumental battle tomorrow evening falls to the grey beards who have been here before, more often that they care to admit.
Glagsow have flattered in recent years only to fall flat on their nose in the European home straight. Asked what a win and quarter-final qualification would mean to the players, Fusaro said: “I think it would feel similar to winning the Pro12. Qualifying would be incredible. We have never achieved it before and I have never achieved it before. As a squad there is an excitement behind it and we feel we are so close.
“We are a bit desperate, we have been so close in the last couple of seasons, to actually get to the last game and if we win we go through there is a lot of excitement. That is why our preparation is so important, but training has been good. We are in a good place. The boys are feeling good because they know what is coming and what we can achieve if we play to our best.”