Versatility can often be a curse as much as a gift in the world of modern rugby but, on balance, it is probably a better attribute to have than not.
The ability to cover a number of positions can often steer a player towards the dreaded “useful bench man” zone but Rob Harley is not a player you would put in the “jack of all trades” basket.
More comfortable at flanker, the 26-year-old with 19 Scotland caps (13 of them starts) is a tried and tested performer at lock and his coach Gregor Townsend will be happy to have the 6ft 6in forward in his pack of cards this week.
The Warriors learned late on Wednesday night that they would be without second row Brian Alainu’uese for the next three matches after he was suspended by a Guinness Pro12 disciplinary hearing in Dublin. Alainu’uese had been cited following the weekend’s 35-28 win in Treviso under the law which states a player “must not charge into a ruck or maul without the use of arms, or without grasping a player”. The panel upheld the citing.
The lock, who joined Glasgow from incoming coach Dave Rennie’s Waikato Chiefs in October, was red carded for a similar offence against Ospreys in November and was given a one-week ban on that occasion.
The panel’s statement said: “While considering the severity on this occasion merited a low-end entry point (two weeks), the panel took into account the player’s previous record for similar offences over the last two months and determined that the appropriate sanction was a suspension of three weeks. The player will be free to be play after 22 January.”
Assuming the ban is not appealed, Alainu’uese will miss tomorrow night’s Guinness Pro12 visit of Cardiff and the subsequent European games against Munster and Leicester.
With Greg Peterson, Tjiuee Uanivi and Scott Cummings all out injured, it is likely Harley will pack down in the engine room with co-captain Jonny Gray tomorrow and it is something the former West of Scotland man is more than up for.
“For me it doesn’t really change much,” he said. “I approach the game the same for both positions and try and do the same thing. It just makes a small difference and you are working harder at scrum time. There is not a huge difference.
“I am happy to play where selected. When I was younger I enjoyed the back row more with the freedom but partly due to the other players here and the coaching staff I enjoy a lot of the set-piece work that we do, the mauls, the scrums, so I enjoy the technical and physical challenge of that.”
Whatever number he has on his back Harley, like the rest of the Glasgow squad, is highly motivated to keep their charge to the Pro12 top four going and head into those huge European games in the best possible fettle.
Tomorrow night’s visitors travel north on the back of a 15-10 New Year derby loss at Scarlets and have slumped to seventh place in the table. A strong finish to last season seemed to signal Cardiff were poised to put years of under-achieving behind them but now look set for another battle to get into the top six and the Champions Cup, never mind the play-offs.
Their talismanic skipper Sam Warburton made it clear earlier in the week that tomorrow night’s match in Glasgow is a line in the sand.
“If we want to be top six then you have to go to a quality team like Glasgow and pick up a win,” said the 2013 Lions skipper.
“It’s a tough away trip and we have to get a win there. If we don’t, then that top six is slowly slipping away. If we lose any more than two or three more games we are going to find it very hard to get into that top six.”
Harley is certainly expecting the Blues, who won the reverse fixture at Arms Park earlier in the season, to throw the kitchen sink at them.
“I think they will have that mindset and will come out with all guns blazing,” he said. “That is exciting for us to have that challenge. To come in and do battle physically. They have a number of world-class players as well so it is up to us to meet that challenge. Hopefully we use everything we have at Scotstoun to help us. It is a sold-out home crowd behind us and we can use that to push us over the top.
“With the mood and atmosphere here you have a good energy about the building. This week training has been really competitive, really fun and that helps building towards the weekend in that you have positive energy among the whole squad and the standards are high through the whole week.”
l Former Glasgow wing DTH van der Merwe is to leave Scarlets at the end of the 2016-17 season, it has been announced.
The South Africa-born Canada international was part of the Warriors’ Pro12 winning team in 2015 before heading to Wales and has been linked with a move to Newcastle. Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac said: “He is joining the fire service going forward and has three years left in rugby before he has to make that call. He is looking at a three-year contract and the money in England is a lot more than here so he is doing what is right for his family and we support that.”