Glasgow Warriors look for winning momentum ahead of European test

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As a typically blunt New Zealander, Jason O’Halloran had no interest in trying to put an unrealistic spin on Glasgow Warriors’ performance against the Dragons on Saturday evening, but he did stress that it was a positive exercise for the team in terms of getting the hangover from their diabolical showing the week before against the Southern Kings out of their system.

With a bonus-point win in the bag, the team will now use another Pro14 hit-out at home against Zebre this Friday night to really get into the groove, before things get serious with the arrival of English champions Saracens at Scotstoun in the first round of the European Champions Cup on Sunday 
14 October.

Glasgow Warriors' Ryan Wilson and Niko Matawalu leave the field after the win over Dragons. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Glasgow Warriors' Ryan Wilson and Niko Matawalu leave the field after the win over Dragons. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

“You are always going to have a bit of ring rust after a nightmare like the Kings, but I think we got the energy and the effort we looked for and just need to marry that up with a little bit better coordination this week against Zebre,” explained Warriors’ attack coach, O’Halloran, pictured.

“They [Zebre] will bring a lot of heat in defence, a lot of line speed, and they are very dangerous [in possession] – a really good offloading side,” he continued. “We need to pressure their set piece defensively and try to get our shape really quickly in attack so that we can attack them both sides of the ruck.

“And we need to be a little more circumspect in offloading because they can really punish you. While the Dragons probably did not have that much ambition to play off the ball we gave them, Zebre 
certainly will.

“What we learned from the weekend is that we need to hold a little more depth in attack so that we can dictate to the defence and use our feet. We allowed the Dragons to dictate to us at times by being too flat. That is a relatively easy fix, hopefully – just apply a bit of pressure at training and make guys aware that if we give ourselves a couple more metres of depth we have a chance to use our footwork and distribute the ball into space under a little less pressure.

“It is a little bit to do with not having played well the week before and wanting to take the game on. Rugby is really a balance between having the right physicality and aggression – being really energetic, aggressive and wanting to come at the opposition – but that can take away from your little minor skills, the catch-and-pass stuff… things like that. I think that is where we were at last week, after a poor, really lethargic performance against Kings. We need to find that balance between being really psyched and physical and having those little intricate skills.”

The last time the Warriors played Saracens was in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup two seasons ago and it was a chastening experience, with the English side blasting their way to an emphatic 38-13 victory at Allianz Park. Doubts persist about whether the team have enough grunt up front to really compete against the top teams in Europe, and everyone involved in the squad knows that they won’t get a better opportunity to prove their doubters wrong.

“It’s in the back of our minds but we realise that we need to try to carry some momentum into European competition and there is a chance to do that after a decent win last weekend,” said O’Halloran, who was understandably keen to keep the focus on the task immediately ahead of his players. “We’re in base camp and we need to improve this week to really go into Saracens with a bit of confidence.

“We’re going to give some guys an opportunity this week, but we’re also looking to build up a couple of combinations in key areas. So, there will be guys who will look at this game as an opportunity to play their way into Saracens, and there will be other guys rested so we can bring them back fresh for that game. There are probably two or three guys in that forward pack who had a heavy week and need a rest leading into European competition.”

Behind the scrum, DTH van der Merwe is not likely to be involved this week due to a groin injury, but fellow winger Tommy Seymour should be back after being rested against the Dragons. “DTH is a sort of day-to-day proposition at this stage. We’ll probably know more about him this time next week,” explained O’Halloran. “Lee Jones was really good at the weekend, so we’re starting to build a bit of depth there in the wing position.”