If Glasgow want to silence the growing murmurs that their pack lacks the beef to be truly competitive this season, then the visit of Munster to Scotstoun tomorrow would be the ideal opportunity to lay down a marker.
Warriors forwards coach Jon Humphreys was not shying away from the challenge ahead as the Irish province with the proud reputation for strangulating strength come calling, but was equally keen to express confidence his men will be up to the challenge.
“Going away to Connacht [where Glasgow won 27-26 on Saturday] is always a big physical test, and this is one again. We’ve then got Cheetahs the following week. All those teams have really strong set-pieces. It’s a real good challenge for us,” said the Welshman.
“Last week was pleasing but we know we have to be a lot better this week. Teams coming here will feel that their access into the game is through the forwards.
“We’ve got to make sure we change that perception. Whether it’s style of play or not, we need to make sure that we are pretty ferocious and we are in a good spot every time we play.”
Humphreys admitted that if the Glasgow pack appear to be outmuscled again there is a danger that the image could become a self-fulling prophecy as the season goes on.
“For us, we know that the perception can become the reality and we have to make sure that we are good in that area and really physical there,” he said. “There’s a focus and energy on defending well, otherwise Munster will score a lot of points.”
Glasgow have struggled against Conference A rivals Munster in the past couple of seasons, losing four times to them in Europe and the Pro12 in 2016-17 and again in Cork last season.
They did, however, post one of their best performances of the season against them almost a year ago, a 37-10 thumping at Scotstoun forming part of that ten-match opening Pro14 winning streak. “We talked about that [poor record] before last year and we managed to put in a pretty good performance,” said Humphreys.
“Over the last two times we’ve played them we’ve had a 50 per cent record.
“They’re a very good team and their strengths are what everyone knows them to be. For us to win the game we’re going to have to be right on the money.
“The boys like playing against them. They are always the benchmark of physicality. Unless you stand up front phyiscally you’re not going to beat Munster. It’s always a big test. If we win we go to the top of the [Conference A] table. In terms of relevance towards the end of the season it just puts you in a good position.”
Humphreys revealed that lock Brian Alainu’uese is still a couple of weeks from returning from a back injury and conceded that his 6ft 7in bulk would be a welcome sight. “He was injured for a large part of last year and hopefully when we come back from South Africa he will be close to being available for selection,” reported Humphreys.
“We don’t have many people like him – 140kg and very skilful. We’re looking forward to getting him back.”
Beef is added to the pack with South African prop Oli Kebble, who is 6ft 3in and nearly 20 stones, set to continue at loosehead. “I went to see him play [in Super Rugby] for the Stormers,” said Humphreys. “He’s a massive man, very physical and with a really good skillset. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t see a lot of him last year. Hopefully he’s over all that and we’ll see the benefits of having him.”