Gregor Townsend: Al Kellock one of the top leaders

LAST Thursday saw the announcement of Al Kellock’s retirement at the end of the season and it was great to see the tributes which flowed in for the big man from around the rugby world.

Al Kellock announced his decision to retire last week. Picture: SNS

Al has been a wonderful servant for Scottish Rugby and, in particular, Glasgow Warriors and is one of the best leaders I have worked with in the game.

The very best leaders create an environment where the energy comes from the team members and this energy flows into the work that is needed to be invested in achieving excellence and permeates the overall culture of an organisation.

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Al has driven so much of this energy that we as coaches see on a daily basis from our players just how they strive to be better, how they put everything into working hard for their team-mates, the supporters and for the Warriors’ jersey they wear.

In this respect Al has put tremendous pride into Glasgow rugby, helped give it a bright future and has created a sound model and a wonderful legacy for other new leaders to follow.

I’ve worked with Al in a coaching capacity for the past six years, both at Scotland and at Glasgow and we’ve had an excellent working relationship. These past few months, I believe have shown Al at his best: driving standards, looking at ways to improve our culture and, probably most importantly, doing all he can in a playing capacity to help the team win.

Tomorrow when we take on Cardiff Blues it will be a special game for Al and for Dougie Hall, who is also retiring this year, as we pay tribute to their fantastic careers at the club.

Both Al and Dougie have shown great resilience and durability in what is an increasingly physical game, overcoming various injuries and challenges in their careers, but despite that they have been very consistent with their performances for Glasgow.

They are in the top six of the all-time appearances in the Pro12 competition, with Al on 170 appearances and Dougie on 171 and it will be great to see them lead the team out on Friday night in front of what is expected to be a capacity crowd at Scotstoun stadium.

It’s been a while since our last home game and we will be up against tough opponents in Cardiff. They are a team that looks to keep hold of the ball and they tend to do this very well, as the stats show they have the most ball carries of any team in the Pro12 and are ranked second for the number of passes produced. So it’ll be a real test of our defence to put pressure on Cardiff as they seek to retain possession.

It’s a big weekend for the Guinness Pro12 as every game now has something tangible at stake, with competition hotting up for the remaining places for the play-offs and qualification for Europe.

In that regard it was great to see Edinburgh Rugby win down at Scarlets a couple of weeks ago, which puts them in a very strong position to qualify for the Champions Cup and I’d like to congratulate them on their courageous win against London Irish last weekend. They now have a tremendous opportunity to achieve success in a European competition this season.

But it’s going to be a special night for our players tomorrow while it’s also the start of a big weekend for the club as another group of players will represent the Warriors at the historic Melrose 7s on Saturday afternoon.

We are honoured to be competing in the 125th anniversary of the tournament and we have a group of players excited to be selected for our ten-man squad. Last year we were thrilled to be involved in the tournament and took the participation very seriously. We’ll aim to set similar standards this year, but we know it’ll be an even tougher competition this time around.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced Melrose 7s, I’d urge you to head down to the Borders this Saturday afternoon. It’s a wonderful day out, and the rugby on display is usually of a high standard. And with a Friday night visit to Scotstoun as a prelude, you would have a perfect (rugby) weekend…