Tomorrow’s match against Vern Cotter’s Montpellier in the south of France is a dead rubber for Glasgow Warriors with progress from their European Champions Cup pool virtually impossible but tighthead prop Zander Fagerson has insisted that there is no chance they will take it easy at the Altrad Stadium.
“Not difficult at all,” was Fagerson’s blunt reply, when asked how hard it would be for the team to get motivated after three defeats out of three in the competition.
“With Champions Cup rugby there is always a buzz around the place – even when the going gets tough. We’re really looking forward to righting a few wrongs and making a statement this weekend.”
“We are not here to lie down – that’s not what we do at this club,” added Fagerson. “We’ve had quite a tough start to the competition – we are more or less out of it – but we’ve got ambitions to be a real force in Europe so we need to use every game we have against the top sides as an opportunity to learn and grow and show that we deserve to be at that level.”
A home defeat to the same opposition last weekend was effectively the final nail in the coffin of the Warriors’ European campaign. Given that it tends to be a lot easier to win games at home than on the road, it is not a huge leap in logic to suggest that the team will have to improve significantly if they are going to cause an upset against a side who are now right back in the mix to progress to the last eight.
Fagerson said: “After the first two games we knew that – realistically – we had to win all of our remaining pool games. We didn’t need to discuss it last week. We knew what we needed to do, we prepared well and we played well in glimpses – but we just didn’t give an 80-minute performance, and they’re a good outfit with a lot of world-class players.”
The turning point in the match was the sin-binning of hooker George Turner just before the half-hour mark, when the Warriors were 17-5 up. A man down, the home team lost composure. They tried to run Montpellier ragged by playing a loose brand of rugby but their opponents were able to squeeze out a deserved 22-29 victory.
Turner has since been handed a four-week ban for charging into the back of French cap Louis Picamoles.
“I’m his team-mate so I’m not going to pass comment,” said Fagerson. “He knows that what he did wasn’t great but I’ll just put my arm round him and tell him it is okay. There’s nothing you can do about it now, you just have to live with the consequences.”
“In this competition, one little mistake will be punished. They are a good outfit. They are not top of the Top 14 at the moment for no reason, and they definitely punished us for our ill-discipline – so, hopefully, it won’t be the same this weekend.”
He added: “Every time you wear a Glasgow Warriors shirt, you want to get out there and get the win and the guys who get that opportunity this weekend will do a job. We are not going over there to just make up the numbers – we are going over there to win.
“There is a lot of ambition in this team, and I think we can end the season well, but it is important that we finish our European campaign with a good showing in the last few games because momentum is really important in sport.”
The Warriors’ woes in Europe are in stark contrast to their excellent form in the Guinness Pro14, where they have a record of ten wins from ten outings.
The impression is that they have struggled to cope with step-up in physicality in the cut-throat world of the Champions Cup and, while there were some signs of progress in that area last Friday, Fagerson conceded that there is still work to do.
“Scrum time was good but that maul try we conceded wasn’t ideal – we’ll right the wrongs and improve this week,” he added. “We know what they are going to do, they are a big physical team and they’ll come at us direct again, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Then, of course, it is into the festive season, and the eagerly anticipated 1872 Cup double-header against a rejuvenated Edinburgh outfit.
“It is the same as in the Champions Cup. When those Edinburgh games come around there is an edge in training because everyone wants to be involved.
“It doesn’t matter whether you have been here for a month or for ten years – those are the games you want to be playing in.”