Richie Gray calls for defensive toughness if Glasgow Warriors want to win on the road in ‘wide open’ URC

We’re two rounds into the new United Rugby Championship campaign and the early signs are that this season’s league will throw up a few more surprises than last year.

While Ulster, Leinster and the Bulls fill the top three slots as the only sides to have won both their opening games none of them has had it all their own way.

Ulster conceded 39 points in Llanelli en route to beating the Scarlets at the weekend; Leinster were pushed all the way by Zebre in round one before prevailing 33-29 and the Bulls needed a last gasp penalty from veteran Morne Steyn to pip Edinburgh 33-31 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

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The biggest surprises have come at the other end of the table and involve Munster. The Irish heavyweights have lost to Cardiff and Dragons and sit second bottom of the URC standings with two measly bonus points. A curious state of affairs for a club that has twice lifted European club rugby’s biggest prize.

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Even Zebre, last season’s whipping boys, have shown a big improvement. As well as running Leinster close, the Parma side scored five tries against the Sharks on Friday night as they were edged out 42-37.

“It’s wide open,” said Richie Gray, the Glasgow Warriors forward. “There’s been a lot of tight games so far and a few results which have maybe surprised some people.

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“But it’s good. I think that makes for a more exciting league and a better spectacle for everyone.”

Glasgow lie sixth after bouncing back from an opening day defeat by Benetton in Italy to rack up a bonus-point victory over Cardiff at Scotstoun on Friday night.

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Richie Gray takes the game to Cardiff during Glasgow Warriors' 52-24 win at Scotstoun. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

It was a much needed result after a run of six successive losses in all competitions stretching back to last season but Gray knows the Warriors now need to back it up by beating the Ospreys in Swansea this Saturday.

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Glasgow last won an away game in the URC on January 29 when they went to Galway and beat Connacht 42-20, one of only two victories they achieved in the league away from Scotstoun last season. Since then they have lost on the road to Scarlets, Cardiff, the Stormers, the Bulls, Edinburgh, Leinster and Benetton.

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“Our away record wasn’t great last year. So it’s a big challenge for us to go away from home now against the Ospreys,” added Gray.

Richie Gray knows Glasgow Warriors will have to be defensively robust against Ospreys. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
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“It’ll be a good challenge for us to try and go there and get a result because it’ll show where we’re at.

“They took a tough defeat as well last weekend, so they’ll be hurting from that.”

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Ospreys lost 28-27 at home to the Lions having drawn their URC opener with Scarlets the previous week.

Saturday’s game is the type Glasgow should be winning if they have serious ambitions to finish in the top four but Gray expects a very different test in Swansea after the eight-try bonanza against Cardiff.

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“It’s back to square one now,” he said.

“The mentality is that we need to go and play some good rugby. We can’t just sit back and go into our shells.

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“We need to be prepared to defend. That’s part of the game now. It’s always tough away from home, but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”

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