We owe the Glasgow Warriors fans, admits Rob Harley

Glasgow Warriors' Rob Harley. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU
Glasgow Warriors' Rob Harley. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU
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It is a cunning bit of psychology from coach Dave Rennie,
who has turned to aversion therapy. Almost a week after that crushing defeat to Edinburgh at Murrayfield, Glasgow’s poor players are still being marched in front of the media to face the exact same questions that their colleagues heard in the immediate aftermatch. If that doesn’t make the Glasgow Warriors pull a performance out of the hat tomorrow afternoon then there is no hope.

Yesterday it was the turn of Rob Harley to field questions on last weekend’s defeat by 14 man Edinburgh, which started with the obvious, what the heck happened?

“There is plenty we are looking at out there,” says the ginger topped flanker, “our set piece stuff and some stuff in attack, trying to play a few more phases, but I think the nature of the derby is that you are coming in to fight for the line and credit to Edinburgh for putting in a huge performance. It was tough to take. That is why we are watching it back and trying to take the lessons from it.

“We are saying that when you win you should try and take the lessons but its easier to take the lessons when you lose. With a loss there is a lot to look at and improve on and that’s the positive that we get a chance to play the same team and hopefully improve.

“Fair play to Edinburgh, they played really well. Playing with a man down is one of the hardest things you can do in the game and they played really well given that challenge. So if we look at that we can try and take some of those qualities, the determination that they showed, the physicality when they played a man down for the entire game and try and instil that into our game.”

It is odd turn of events when Glasgow have to take lessons in physicality from Edinburgh but that is the position these two sides currently find themselves and the 27-year-old Harley himself is a clue as to one of the reasons.

Glasgow’s forward pack is young, barely out of short britches. Not one forward who started last weekend’s game had turned 30. Harley, Fraser Brown (28) and Samu Vunisa (29) are late 20s and the rest were “bairns”, at least in grizzled forward terms. Jonny Gray is still only 23 and his lock partner last weekend, Scott Cummings, is two years younger. The props are 24 and 21 while flanker Matt Smith also turned 21 just two months back. More weans than warriors.

Edinburgh laboured with one man missing for 75 minutes but they enjoyed a small but significant advantage in experience with an average age two years higher than the Warriors. It may not sound like much but professionals play 20-30 matches per season and you can learn an awful lot in 60 games.

When asked if Glasgow had been dragged into a bar-room brawl by Edinburgh, Harley replied that that was almost inevitable given what was 
at stake.

“To a certain extent that is just the nature of the derby,” he said. “It’s hard for both sides, fans, coaches as well, that is how it is.

“I don’t know if you can take the passion out of it. I don’t know if you could, I don’t think you’d want to. It is just a necessary part of it. It’s just directing that aggression into the right areas and hopefully being the right side of aggressive and hopefully being accurate and deadly when you have the ball and not getting over-excited by it and making mistakes.

“It has been physical,” said Harley of Glasgow’s training week. “We have raised the level this week and talked about what we have to improve on. We have upped our physicality and we are trying to press ourselves to be better.”

Will Glasgow try to impose their high-tempo, multi-phase style of rugby on Saturday’s visitors, especially on their own fast artificial surface and in front of their faithful fans who will pack the little ground to its rafters?

“We look to do that against every team,” Harley replies. “That comes from getting quick ball, from being connected in defence and getting up fast. Those are the usual things for us.

“If possible we would rather score first phase and quick as possible. If we have to we would go 20 phases to score. For our fans, regardless how many phases it takes, a hundred phases, we would go 100 phases to score.”

Glasgow will bring greater
urgency to Saturday’s re-match, especially in and around the contact zone, but there is at least one Edinburgh player who also has a chip on his shoulder.

Scotland flanker Hamish Watson was the sacrificial lamb, forced to make way for a prop substitute to replace Simon Berghan, who was shown a red card five minutes into the match. It is unfortunate for Hamish he had to go off,” says his fellow flanker. “I know all about him [Watson] from Scotland training camps and that there will be a physical battle all across the back row. They have great players, attacking ball carriers and guys who will slow down our ball so it is a challenge for the whole pack and back row to meet that challenge.

“It was very disappointing for us. It gives us a chance to learn from our mistakes, learn from the things we did wrong and also learn from what Edinburgh did well.

“I am sure the fans would have been disappointed. That is why we feel – coming back to Scotstoun, our home – we owe them a good performance.”