John Barclay has grown impressively into the role of national captain over the past year and clearly attracts boundless respect as one of the pre-eminent elder statesmen of Scottish rugby.
However, a sense of mischievous banter lurking beneath the calm and phlegmatic exterior is never far away, and Barclay has become famous for his social media pranking in Scotland team hotels.
Tommy Seymour is one of the experienced players who was at Glasgow during Barclay’s time before the back-row forward departed for a new and re-energising adventure in south Wales five years ago. While stressing his affection for the Scotland skipper and downplaying his presence in Friday’s semi-final opposition at Scotstoun, the wing confessed that making it his friend’s last match for Scarlets before he joins Edinburgh in the summer would be the “cherry on top” if the Warriors can reach their third final in the competition.
“It’s nice to get to beat John any time we get the opportunity,” said Seymour, with tongue at least half in cheek.
“I’ll be honest, that has not even entered my mind. We’ll worry about beating Scarlets and that will be a pleasure in itself. If Barclay’s on the losing side, then obviously it’s a little bit of a cherry on top. As I said, I’ve not given Barcs much thought. I love him, but I’ve not given him much thought.” Barclay got his winner’s medal last year as the Scarlets won the competition and Seymour is now fully focused on adding a second to the one he collected after Glasgow’s historic triumph in 2015.
Seymour acknowledges the changes which have taken place at the club since that glory night in Belfast but insists the appetite for silverware is just as strong.
“Obviously it’s very different,” said Seymour. “There’s a lot of boys that have moved on or retired, departed the club, and a few boys that have come back, DTH [van der Merwe] obviously.
“We’ve got a quality team, I think. We’ve done incredibly well over the season to get where we are and qualify with weeks to spare.
“It’s obviously a much younger team than the last one, but I think the willingness to win and the excitement to win the championship is as strong as it was back in 2015. I’m under no illusions that this squad is just as capable as the one three years ago of winning the championship.”
Seymour played in both the previous Scotstoun semi-finals, which ended in tight, dramatic wins over Munster in 2014 and Ulster the following year. The sight of the temporary North and South stands returning to boost the stadium capacity to 10,000 for Friday’s big game brings back fond memories for the 29-year-old.
“Yeah, it’s great. It’s nice that we’ve got a big capacity again – up to 10,0000 – and it’s on its way for a sellout,” he said. “Hopefully we can get that across the line. I’ve no doubt that the marketing team are going to get that result for us.
“The two semi-finals we’ve had here have been amazing occasions: very tight fixtures, both of them. As we said at the very start of the season, our goal was to get a semi-final back here at home, another game in front of our fans. We’ve been able to do that, and over the last few weeks there’s been a hell of a lot of excitement about playing a semi-final at Scotstoun.”
This match will be the first time Glasgow have faced non-Irish opposition in the last four and the fact it is the reigning champions visiting their own patch adds extra spice.
“Listen, we’re going to have to play our best game of the season, really, because I’m under no illusions, none of us are, that Scarlets will be playing theirs,” stressed Seymour. “They were champions last year. They’ve got an opportunity to do something really special and win back-to-back titles, so their motivation is easy. Obviously for us winning the title is huge – to get a second championship with Glasgow.
“They have a really expansive game. I’m a big fan, the boys are, of the way they play their rugby. It’s similar to us in the sense that they like to throw the ball around.
“I think for us defence is key, really. We’ve got to shut down and limit the opportunities that they have to get their strike runners on the ball. And I think for us it’s about being clinical when we’ve got the ball and making sure that we’ll handle the pressure that comes with the occasion and push to get across the line for a few scores as well.”
After a long season on the back of his Lions tour, Seymour has been given the summer off, which has made his focus even sharper. “We’ve got a thrilling opportunity over the next two weeks – well, if we get this week right –and I’m just buzzing about that,” he said. “After the two weeks, I’ve been given my orders, and I’ll be sticking to them and I’ll be enjoying some time off.”