Glasgow supporters have been urged to keep the faith ahead of the Guinness Pro14 new season and been assured that they have a squad strong enough to be once again competing come the business end of the season.
That’s the view of assistant coach Kenny Murray as he responded to some grumblings on social media and forums from the Scotstoun faithful.
The addition of only two new signings, the loss of playmaking linchpin Finn Russell to French side Racing 92 and the limp end to the last campaign allied to a curate’s egg of a pre-season has sparked concerns that the 2015 Pro12 champions could be in for a tricky time. Murray, however, insisted that supporters need to look at the bigger picture.
“People forget that last year we had to re-sign a lot of players,” he said. “Those were not young players coming through, it’s international British and Irish Lion type players we’re talking about. So we kept a lot of players on last year and have got a strong squad.
“This year was more about topping it up a little bit. Henry [Pyrgos] going to Edinburgh meant we had a space to bring in another nine for the international windows. I think [Nick] Frisby has been good in the first two games, so we’re comfortable with the squad.
“We just need to be fortunate with injuries. Last year we got a few in the same positions and were a bit frail in those areas.”
Glasgow got off to a storming start in head coach Dave Rennie’s first year and ended the regular season unbeaten at home and top of Conference A. There was a distinct drop off, however, and disappointing showing in the Scotstoun semi-final defeat by Scarlets.
“We take a lot of that Scarlets game and the build up to the end of last season,” said Murray. “Sometimes when you get to that position, in the play-offs, so early in the season, do players take their foot off the gas? Do players lose focus? We just need to make sure that if we get into that play-off position again we maintain that quality of performance we need.”
As Glasgow prepare to travel to Connacht for Saturday’s opener in Galway, Murray rejects the idea that having things too easy early on lulled Glasgow into that late-season slip. “We had tough games [early],” countered Murray. “We had Connacht away first last season too and it is a tough start. We want to win games and get off to a good start.
“We were challenged in games last season, we weren’t winning by 50 points every week. We got ourselves in a good position, now it’s about how we maintain that during international windows, which I think we did better last year, winning away at Ospreys with a young team for example.
“But when we go into that final run of games we’ve got to hit those performance levels. We’ve looked at it and where we need to improve.”
Glasgow’s pre-season results provide a difficult gauge after they whacked a lacklustre Harlequins at Perth before suffering a bit of hiding themselves, 41-15, at Northampton. Back-rower Adam Ashe came off the bench at Franklin’s Gardens after recovering from an ankle injury and believes it was a valuable wake-up call.
“It was a tough game. I think we were probably beaten up physically and in some ways it’s going to be a good lesson for us to learn at this point in the season,” said the 25-year-old.
“We’re not as big a team as some of these bigger teams, so in order for us to get it right we need to get the detail right. That’s something that was really emphasised last weekend. We definitely believe within the group we have that we’ve got enough there to beat these teams, but if we don’t get the detail right we don’t have the size and that wasn’t there at the weekend.”
While such comments may set off more alarm bells among those jittery Warriors fans, Ashe insisted the Glasgow pack won’t be shying away from the physical battles ahead.
“We’ve shown that we can out-muscle these big teams,” he said. “It’s certainly something moving forward that we’re really looking at and wanting to work on but with the group we’ve got there we’ve got the players who can do that. We’ve spoken about it this week and as a group we believe that, so that’s certainly going to be the aim.
“You can’t win a game of rugby nowadays without being physical, so first and foremost that has to be in place, but something Dave’s really tried with the tight five and the forwards in general is to add that ball-playing ability to our game. I think we saw parts of that last year and hopefully there’s more to come.”