It must have been the very definition of the term “mixed emotions” when Glasgow lock Greg Peterson was whistled off the bench in the Saracens’ match Sunday past. The American international has been sidelined since September with a shoulder injury and the only rugby he had under his belt since then was two outings for Glasgow Hawks in the BT Premiership.
Without taking anything away from Hawks, making the jump from Scottish club rugby to a European quarter-final was asking a lot of the USA Eagle.
On one level he must have been delighted to be back in Glasgow colours after seven months out; on another level he might have hoped to enter the fray a little later than the 11th minute.
“Yeah, two games back for Hawks, 50 and 70 minutes,” says Peterson with a rueful smile. “I was expecting 20 minutes at the most. It was unfortunate for Jonny [Gray]. When I saw him stumbling like that I just got up and got ready.
“When I heard he wasn’t returning I just thought, OK, just go and get the job [done]. Dan McFarland [forwards’ coach] told me earlier in the week that if it does happen, if you go on for Jonny, then you will be calling lineouts so there was a large influx of information that I usually take into a game but, you know, I grew as a player because of it.
“Saracens are the best of the best, back to back last season, they are a class outfit. McFarland was saying ‘sometimes you have to really, really hurt to realise where you want to get to next’ and I think that this past Sunday was a real good stepping stone for us.
“It’s disappointing that we can’t go to the semis but it’s a real good stepping stone, not just for this year and the remainder of the season but for next year as well.
“We know exactly what we need to do, we know from that hurt last Sunday to be able to build forward and hopefully go to the finals next year in Europe or the finals in the Pro12 this year, whatever it may be.”
Peterson’s long injury should not be used as an excuse for Glasgow’s under-performance in the league since Brian Alainu’uese was flown in as a direct replacement for the American. Still, having him back and fully fit next season will be more than useful.
Depending upon Gray’s fitness, Peterson may find himself starting against Munster on Saturday coming and while the Warriors may have exited Europe, the big, bearded lock insists that they still have their sights set on not one but two pieces of silverware.
“We know that these last four games are huge for the remainder of the season,” says Peterson. “We know that we have to win every game to get where we want to get with bonus points too.
“It was disappointing to drop out of one competition but we still have two more trophies to work for, the PRO12 and the 1872 Cup and we have our sights set firmly on that and we just have to regather as a group and pull together.”
Peterson is old school in many respects. He is a hard man, one of the game’s enforcers, and you just hope he is a little more subtle in his methods than Tim Swinson was. In some respects he is Munster’s type of player – direct, uncomplicated and unrelenting.
The challenge this weekend will be much like it was last time out only the opposition’s colours have changed. So, how do Glasgow deal with Munster’s power game? “We just have to do what we do best,” replies Peterson, “go to our basics, stick together as a team and absolutely pound them.”