Matt Taylor argues case for the Glasgow defence

Jonny Gray makes a tackle during Glasgow's European Champions Cup defeat by Munster. Picture: SNS Group
Jonny Gray makes a tackle during Glasgow's European Champions Cup defeat by Munster. Picture: SNS Group
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However disappointed Matt Taylor was at the end of the 80 minutes against Munster 
last Saturday, Glasgow’s defensive guru conceded a professional admiration for the way that the Irishmen went about stopping one of the best attacks in the competition from crossing the whitewash.

Taylor declared himself 
90 percent happy with Glasgow on his specialist subject but the perfectionist coach is looking for an improvement on Saturday.

In the era of instant replays and video analysis he expects Leicester to copy Munster’s tactics and to come out swinging after the Tigers suffered a shellacking at the hands of Racing 92.

“We understand they are a very proud side with a very good record in this competition,” said Taylor of the two-times European champions. “We understand also they have not performed as well, particularly last week.

“Listen to the coach after the game and he was disappointed their team did not front up. We are expecting a highly motivated team which we have to prepare well against and need to perform well against to get a result.

“They are really good at home. You look at them one week against Munster when they are beaten by 40 points, the next week they knock them off [at Welford Road]. We know we have to play really well to beat them.

“We are expecting them to come off the line hard and compete hard at the breakdown. They are highly motivated at home and that will give them an extra edge. They have won the cup two times and have been a very successful club for a long time.”

In an effort to get the European monkey off their backs Glasgow players have been doing their extras; staying at a hotel on Monday nights ahead of European ties just to facilitate a little more cramming before Saturday’s big test.

Glasgow will almost certainly need a win to qualify for the last eight and Welford Road is hardly the place they would have chosen for such a cliffhanger.

We have been here before. Had Glasgow sneaked a win at Bath’s Recreation Ground two seasons back when Sean Maitland’s dive for a late winning try was short by inches (and cost the Kiwi an injured shoulder) then Gregor Townsend would have scratched his last remaining itch as Warriors coach.

It is the one glaring gap in the coach’s resume and if he doesn’t drag Glasgow into the play-offs this season who knows when he might get another chance?

At least the fans and players alike can look back at last weekend’s game and marvel that Glasgow almost beat Munster at their own game, standing toe to toe with the men in red and giving nothing away in scrum, lineout or driving maul, until being undone by a late yellow card and an even later try.

Glasgow are much improved in several areas, especially maul defence, where opponents would be licking their lips in previous seasons.

“You have got to take your hat off to Dan McFarland,” says Taylor, “he is an exceptional forwards coach. Our forward play has really developed in the last year or two. He puts a lot of time and effort into that area. Our set piece has been one of the areas that has been really good. At the highest level you need your set piece to be really good.”

So it was, although that wasn’t the only reason for Glasgow’s competitive performance because the leadership of lock Jonny Gray has also developed apace this season.

Taylor admits that the Glasgow co-captain is naturally quite quiet but he has nevertheless become more vocal on the field, questioning and explaining things with referees far more than he used to.

And communication with the match officials has become an integral part of modern captaincy, like it or not.

“He missed his first tackle for a long time,” Taylor says of Gray, although he can’t quite believe it. “We were having a conversation about whether it was a miss or not but we were tough on him and he got the missed tackle. I can’t remember how many he made off the top of my head, it might have been 17 but I could be wrong.

“He has been exceptional, he is defending really well, getting off the line. His work rate is phenomenal in all areas, whether it is attack or defence. In all areas of the game, if you just look at stats for Jonny Gray, he is a freak, we are so lucky to have him.

“I find him excellent to work with, one of those players you really enjoy working with, he always wants to get better, he does not rest on his laurels.

“I hope he is in the frame for the Lions, I really do.”

Never mind being in contention for the Lions squad, right now Gray would probably settle for being safely into the quarter-finals of the European Cup.