How Glasgow Warriors can dispel mentality questions of Scottish rugby

Glasgow Warriors are back in action this weekend against the Stormers.Glasgow Warriors are back in action this weekend against the Stormers.
Glasgow Warriors are back in action this weekend against the Stormers.
Scotstoun men face big test against Stormers after stuttering in past two matches

Edinburgh’s season ended rather miserably last weekend with a heavy defeat away to Benetton.

Now there is reason to fear that Glasgow’s may end even more disappointingly in the URC quarter-final against DHL Stormers , even though they are at the usually impregnable Scotstoun.

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In racing parlance, Glasgow were forerunners coming into the last furlong only to stumble in two matches in South Africa and last week struggled to beat Zebre. Meanwhile the Stormers have quickened and are on a good run. There’s the old saying “when the going gets tough the tough get going” but all too often this isn’t the case with Scottish rugby.

Huw Jones is back in the Glasgow Warriors team.Huw Jones is back in the Glasgow Warriors team.
Huw Jones is back in the Glasgow Warriors team.

The national side this spring (if you can call it spring) let winning positions slip against France at Murrayfield and Italy in Rome, also all but doing the same even more reprehensibly in Cardiff. The only wholly satisfactory match was against England when after a worrying start we won quite comfortably. It is hard to avoid the question: is there a mental softness in Scottish Rugby?

Look back at the World Cup. The ridiculously early composition of the pools landed us against Ireland and South Africa in the early stage of the tournament. Few may have expected Scotland to beat either of them and so proceed to the quarter-final, but there was reason to hope both matches might be excitingly close.

Neither was, and our tournament ended early. Yet, as I’ve written here before, the present Scotland team is the best we have had since we won the last Five Nations title in 1999, and now, one might add that Glasgow have their best team – certainly their strongest squad since they won what was then the Pro 14 way back in 2015.

Glasgow have of course a formidable home record and have indeed beaten the Stormers on their previous two visits to Scotstoun. This may be encouraging, but in truth such records don’t necessarily mean much, though it remains true that most matches are won by the home side unless there is a very obvious disparity between the two teams.

There certainly shouldn't be that today .Glasgow can after all field an almost all-international side, something that probably only Leinster of the other clubs in the URC can do. Twelve of them have Scotland caps. You will almost never beat a South African side without a powerful pack, and this Glasgow one has power, pace, experience and ball-handling skills.

Sometimes I worry that they are too dependent on the rolling maul for try-scoring and can seem at a loss if their mauls are repeatedly checked. Then again, their confidence in the rolling maul means that the go for the five-metre line-out when kicking a penalty goal seems the more sensible option. Some of the best clubs – Toulouse, Saracens, Northampton Saints – like to keep the scoreboard moving and opt to take a probably three points rather than a possible five (or seven).

Again, there have been matches this season in which Glasgow haven’t made the best use of their talented, sometimes brilliant back division, This may be partly because they lack a fly-half of the highest class, or a top-class reader of the game. Tom Jordan who is at ten today is a fine player and powerful runner, but he has always seemed a 12 rather than a complete 10.

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Well, today he has Scotland’s first-choice centres Sione Tuipolutu and Huw Jones outside him and must surely seek to bring them into the game as often as possible. Jones hasn’t actually played many games for Glasgow this season, partly because of Six Nations calls, partly on account of injury and partly because Stafford MacDowall, currently injured, has been such a star for the club. His ability to kck long touch-finders with his left foot may be missed; on the other hand there are few centres today who have a keener eye for a gap and a turn of speed than Jones.

Like other South African teams, the Stormers employ a constraining blitz defence, something that while formidable offers opportunities to a centre as alert and skilful as Tuipolutu. One hopes the referee and his touchline assistants are more alert to the tendency of teams employing the blitz defence than their counterparts in the Champions Cup final were when Leinster, coached in the drift by their South African defence coach, seemed to stray across the offside line with impunity on a number of times.

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