Mike Blair wasn’t in South Africa with the main body of the Glasgow Warriors squad during the last two weeks. The coach was left back in Scotland to work with the fringe players and those returning from injury, who didn’t make the trip. It must have felt like he had been dealt the short straw before last weekend, but he surely now feels pretty relieved not to have been directly involved in Saturday afternoon’s debacle against the Southern Kings.
To lose that match in any circumstances would have been disappointing for a side such as the Warriors, who have title genuine aspirations, but the nature of the 38-28 defeat is hard to rationalise.
“It was a difficult one to take wasn’t it?” agreed Blair. “I was back in Edinburgh watching the game and we were knocked for six a little bit at the start. To be 31-0 down after 44 minutes was a surprise. I guess dealing with that situation is not something we’ve come across before, with that kind of scoreline against an opposition who I think most people would believe we should be beating and beating comfortably.
“The chat was that the Tuesday [training] session before the game was one of the best we’ve had this season. That can be great for the confidence, but you maybe breed a little bit of over-confidence. Then, apparently, the Thursday session was one of the worst sessions we’ve had. So, there’s that inconsistency of performance during that week which maybe led into what happened at the weekend.
“It’s a difficult one to put your finger on. We definitely believed the side we put out was capable of winning and winning well. We feel we’ve got a lot of strength in depth but unfortunately it just didn’t click and there were individual errors by lots of players on the same day.”
The Warriors squad returned to Scotland on Monday and were back in training yesterday, with Blair reporting a deep determination to right a few wrongs when the Dragons come calling at Scotstoun this coming Saturday evening.
“We’ve had a good hard look at ourselves this morning, the players have had a chat and what happened was unacceptable,” he stated. “There’s little things that are so important to a team performance and we didn’t see in that game – things like intensity, workrate off the ball, those kinds of things.
“We turned over the ball 29 times. When you do that you’re going to be conceding some points. So, there has been a lot of chat about that, about decision making, about why we’re making those errors. Some were skill based, some were effort based. Trying to pick a positive out of a negative, it’s maybe a good thing that it’s happened this early in this season, which means we’ve had this frank conversation in September as opposed to March or April time – there’s plenty of time to fix things.
“Today there has been a good buzz around the squad. There’s a lot of things to deal with, but they’re being dealt with in a positive manner. It is an intelligent group and it is an honest group – so we expect a big reaction from this because the guys will be hurting more than the coaching staff.”
While the players involved in the Kings setback may be desperate for a chance to make amends, head coach Dave Rennie may be looking to mix things up this week, and Blair believes that a few of the individuals he has spent the last fortnight working with are ready to step up to the plate.
“There is an opportunity to have some fresher guys come in,” he said. “I really enjoyed the two weeks back here, the guys worked really well so there was plenty of opportunity for the guys here to get themselves ready to make that step up. I’d say there will be a few of those guys involved this weekend. We’ve got a big squad and a result like that puts everyone on their toes. No one is untouchable, so anyone training well will put their hand up for a starting place.”