Glasgow Warriors’ quest to make the Pro12 play-offs for the sixth successive season is hanging by a thread. They are currently in sixth place in the table, ten points behind fourth placed Ulster with four games to go – so they need to make sure that everything they do is spot on and also hope that a few things outwith their control fall into place.
Gregor Townsend clearly needs his players to be fully focused and bursting with energy, so it was not a huge surprise to hear the canny coach thrust himself into the firing line in the blame game after last weekend’s European Champions Cup defeat to Saracens.
That reversal has the potential to be a serious blow to the team’s confidence, especially with the Warriors taking on a Munster outfit which has a lot in common with Saracens in terms of outlook and style this evening.
The fact that the Warriors have already played Munster three times this season and failed to come out on top in any of those encounters can only add to the sense of tension which a game of this magnitude is bound to bring.
“I felt we played really well in the last game against Munster, and we created chances to score, but we just didn’t take them. So, a similar level of intensity and accuracy will put us in a very good position – but that is easier said than done,” said Townsend.
“Munster are an excellent team, they’ve got a very good set-piece, and they’ve got a defence that is very effective – so we are going to have to make sure we are able to impose our game on them.”
“We didn’t do that last week [against Saracens] and as much as that defeat is really frustrating and disappointing, a lot of that was down to me and my preparation,” he continued.
“Maybe we didn’t back what we can do in attack and defence and focused instead on the things that they might do against us. It was a good lesson for us, a good lesson for me. Obviously, Saracens are an excellent team but so are we and we should have done much better last weekend.”
“In my role as head coach we didn’t get it right, which means we didn’t show a true reflection of ourselves – and that’s what we’ve got to do this weekend because it is a very important game for two reasons.
“Firstly, to play much better than last week; and secondly, we have four games left in the regular season and, as I said before the last two league games, we’ll have to win them to be in a chance of making the play-offs. We have won our last two and we want to continue that tomorrow.”
“We’ve focused a lot on ourselves. Obviously, it is an opposition we know well, we’ve played them three times, so there is not that much we have to cover on them – so we just have to make sure that we go out there and play close to our potential.”
Warriors have been boosted by the availability of co-captain Jonny Gray, who was forced to retire from the Saracens match during the first half after getting a tooth knocked out and failing a head injury assessment. According to Townsend, the big second-row is desperate to work some of last week’s frustration out of his system.
“He has a new tooth so he’s looking good. You can’t tell which one it is. He passed his concussion protocols and he is raring to go. He was disappointed that he couldn’t play more than he did last week so he will probably be our freshest player in this game,” said Townsend. However, there is no Zander Fagerson, who is out for at least the next two games with a foot injury.
Tonight’s match is being played at Irish Independent Park [formerly Musgrave Park] in Cork, which has a capacity of only 9,500, compared to the 25,600 which can be packed into their regular Thomond Park base – but Townsend says the noise of the crowd will not necessarily correlate with the size of the stadium. “Cork is a rugby city and they don’t get all that many games so there is an even more passionate crowd than Thomond,” he said.