Ratu Tagive ready for Glasgow Warriors ‘grudge match’ as he eyes elusive first cap

Ratu Tagive is not one to shirk a challenge. Midway through the second half of last weekend’s inter-city clash at Murrayfield, Edinburgh’s Bill Mata embarked on one of those trademark thundering runs which looked like it might take him all the way to the Glasgow tryline.

Ratu Tagive has helped Glasgow Warriors to back-to-back wins over Edinburgh in the Rainbow Cup. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

Mata is a big man and takes a bit of stopping. Step forward Tagive. The Glasgow winger put his body on the line and felled the marauding Fijian, snuffing out any hope of the comeback the home team had been threatening.

The Warriors held on for a deserved win, their second in eight days against their oldest rivals.

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Tagive is a good guy to have on your side. At 6ft 3in and 15 and a half stone he’s no slouch in the physical stakes and he intends to bring it all to bear when Danny Wilson’s side resume their Rainbow Cup campaign against Dragons on Saturday night.

He describes the game in Wales as a “grudge match”, with some bad feeling still lingering from the sides’ meeting at Scotstoun back in December. Glasgow had scored an 83rd minute try under the posts through Johnny Matthews to bring themselves to within a point of the visitors. But they were denied victory when now departed stand-off Brandon Thomson missed the simple conversion, striking the upright.

The reaction of some of the Dragons players hasn’t been forgotten by Tagive and it’s safe to say Glasgow will have plenty of motivation when they turn up at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday night.

“When Brandon Thomson missed the goal and hit the post right at full-time the sportsmanship of the boys running over, cheering and rubbing him on the head…. you remember those moments.

“We’ll match that energy and give it back to them when we get the opportunity. It is a grudge match in the same way it has been in the last two weeks against Edinburgh and we’ll take that energy into setting the record straight in the way we haven’t been able to in the previous two encounters with them.”

From inauspicious beginnings, the Rainbow Cup suddenly offers Glasgow the chance of a happy ending to a difficult season. Their defeat by Benetton in the opening game was a bruising experience for all concerned, although the Italian side’s position now at the top of the table offers some retrospective mitigation. Consecutive wins over Edinburgh have lifted the Warriors into contention and it is not outlandish to think they could be contesting the final on June 19.

After the Dragons, they round off their group fixtures with a home game against Leinster on June 4. So could they go all the way?

“Let’s take it a step at a time,” cautions Tagive. “Obviously we started the campaign on a very wrong foot, but we’ll take those two back-to-back victories. And actually we’ve got a point to prove as well because we’ve dropped both games in the previous two seasons against the Dragons. And Danny, being Welsh and coming from those parts, has a point to prove as well.”

So too does Tagive who is now in his fifth season with the Warriors and qualified for Scotland on residency grounds some time ago. He’s had a couple of involvements with the national side but that treasured first cap remains elusive. The summer schedule, which comprises an A international with England and away Tests against Georgia and Romania, could provide the opportunity for the Sydney-born rugby league convert.

Ratu Tagive stops the marauding Bill Mata in his tracks during Glasgow's 31-24 win over Edinburgh in the Rainbow Cup at BT Murrayfield. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

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He is well known to Gregor Townsend, the national coach having signed him in November 2016 when he was in charge of Glasgow Warriors.

“I’d be lying if I said that was not in the back of my mind,” admitted Tagive, who was part of Scotland’s initial Six Nations squad in 2020 and was called up again ahead of the autumn internationals.

“The only way to control that is by playing as well as I can week to week. So if I can keep playing some good rugby and that comes around then I’ll be pretty chuffed about that and keep chasing the ever-evasive first cap.”

Glasgow players console Brandon Thomson, centre, after he missed a last-gasp conversion to beat the Dragons at Scotstoun in December. The Welsh side's players were less considerate. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

The winger has seen the strides made by Duhan van der Merwe since winning his first cap against Georgia last October and he sees himself as being in a similar mould to the Edinburgh man.

“I’m a big, powerful athlete and that’s initially why Gregor brought me over from Australia,” said Tagive. “It’s that same point of difference as a Kyle Steyn or a Duhan – they’re big, powerful ball carriers who can break tackles.

“This season has presented a different challenge in that there are a lot more young players in the [Glasgow] squad and I probably put my attention in the wrong places by trying to help the boys coming through which probably took away from my own performances. But I’ve cleared all that out of the way and just got back to playing some basic rugby – catch the ball, carry hard, tackle hard, that sort of thing.”

Although he never got stripped, Tagive was part of the Scotland squad which went to Llanelli and beat Wales in last year’s rearranged Six Nations game, and the reaction from one of his Glasgow team-mates showed him just what it meant to win a cap.

“I was 24th man when Oli Kebble made his international debut down in Wales last October. When one of the senior boys was speaking in the huddle before the match, I had my eye on Oli. He’s a big man who doesn’t show emotion, but he had some tears coming down.

“With or without the crowd there, it is a special achievement in anyone’s career to get even one cap for your country, so that would be a dream come true. Can’t say much more than that.”

Ratu Tagive has been called into Scotland squads - including the 2020 Six nations when he was the 24th man - for the win over Wales - but has yet to be capped. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

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