How Glasgow Warriors plan to play La Rochelle at their own game

Glasgow Warriors attack coach Nigel Carolan believes that the key to success in this Sunday’s European Champions Cup campaign opener against La Rochelle will be managing to play the French side at their own game.

Glasgow Warriors face La Rochelle this weekend.
Glasgow Warriors face La Rochelle this weekend.

While last Saturday’s bonus-point home win over Dragons in the United Rugby Championship was a step in the right direction, Carolan knows that this weekend’s trip to Stade Marcel Deflandre will be a whole different ball game.

The Dragons have won only one game all season, against Connacht at the start of October, and currently sit 13thout of 16 teams in the URC table, while La Rochelle are fifth in the French Top14 and were beaten finalist in last year’s Champions Cup.

However, Warriors will take confidence from having secured a 24-27 when the two sides met the same venue in December 2019.

“We’re going to one of the big teams in France and taking them on in their back garden, so what better way to win than play a French style of rugby against them,” said Carolan who joined the Warriors coaching team from Connacht during the summer.

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“They do exactly what it says on the tin – they are physically a massive team, but they are not afraid to have a go. So, it is a scary prospect when you are talking about a team of that size who are willing to throw the ball around.

“But we’re trying to focus on our own game and what we can do to hurt them. We need to keep the ball for multiple phases – keep it away from them – and ifwe can work for each other, with accuracy, then I think there is a massive opportunity there. If we can get our game to click, then I think we’ll score points.

“We were pleased to get a win and five league points against the Dragons on Saturday, but there’s a lot we’ve got to improve if we really want to be serious about competing in the Champions Cup,” he continued. “There are parts of our game we just need to be tidier with. It was brilliant to score five tries, but we left five more tries out there as well.

“So, we’ve looked at ways we can be better, and it is positive that we can see where there is room for improvement.”

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A big bonus for Warriors was that they picked up no new injuries during the Dragons game, and with most of their front-line internationalists having managed a weekend off during the fortnight since the end of the Autumn Test series, the squad is in as good shape as could reasonably be hoped for at this stage of the season

Second-row Scott Cummings is hoping but not guaranteed to return from the shoulder injury he picked up playing for Scotland against Japan, Fraser Brown is still a few weeks from match fitness after a knee injury, and Simon Berghan will be out until the new year with an achilles injury. Apart from that, Glasgow will be at full-strength this weekend.

Meanwhile, Carolan identified New Zealander Josh McKay as a player with the potential to grab Sunday’s game by the scruff of the neck, after the full-back registered an impressive debut performance against the Dragons.

“He’s got a very good turn of pace, good footwork and he’s strong in contact – I don’t know how many tackles he broke against Dragon but its nearly a given that he’s going to beat the first defender,” said the coach. “He certainly complements the type of rugby we’re trying to play.”