VETERAN Sean Lamont is sure Glasgow have what it takes to be Guinness Pro12 champions this season.
The Warriors face Ulster at a sold-out Scotstoun tomorrow afternoon and the 93-times capped centre/wing senses that the team are on the cusp of something special after the progress they have made in the last few years.
“The biggest difference is not just the squad but the fans, who are really vocal now”Sean Lamont
Lamont is in the fourth season of his second stint at the club and is hopeful he will play a part tomorrow as he returns from a knee injury picked up in March.
With a single point separating the top four of the Pro12, there is all to play for on the final afternoon of the regular season and Glasgow are determined to do what is necessary to gain the advantage of a home semi-final, ahead of a potential final at Ulster’s Kingspan Stadium home in Belfast on 30 May.
Asked if he felt Glasgow were capable of going all the way, Lamont was swift and adamant in his reply. “Yes we are,” he insisted. “You just have to look at the progression over the last two years, from semi-final to final, and we are looking to repeat that if not go one step further this year.
“With the ethos we’ve got, the squad that [coach] Gregor [Townsend] has built and the standards he lays down, we are going the right way. We know we have a big task because the top four teams are a tough challenge. A home semi would make a big difference but it’s not the be all and end all. After this weekend it is knockout rugby and anything can happen whether you’re home or away.”
Lamont does not expect to start tomorrow, but he is hopeful of being on the bench when the team is announced today, after taking part in a bounce game against Scotland under-20s at BT Murrayfield last Thursday.
“It was men against boys, literally,” laughed Lamont.
“But, to be fair to the young lads, they did really well. It is actually quite good for them to come up against full adults in training because, when they play against teams like New Zealand [in next month’s Junior World Cup] they will be against some fairly big age-grade players.
“It was nice for me and ticked the box,” he added. “I asked to do it because it helps me put my hand up for this weekend. Gregor said that, if I didn’t play I could be on the bench, and after that you don’t know how long you’re going to get.
“If I’m looking to get involved and come back for the finals then playing in that under-20s game was the best step forward.”
Whether he gets on the field or not, Lamont is looking forward to a great atmosphere at Scotstoun tomorrow, something he has felt building in the last year or so and is as indicative of the progress the club has made as cold, hard results and league placing.
He explained: “I think the biggest difference is not just the squad but the fans, who are really vocal now. I remember back in the day when it was one man and his dog, the most you would get was the odd ‘Glaaaaasgoooow!’ but now it is great.
“It is quite oppressive [for the visiting team]. We’re used to going away and having it against us, so it is quite nice to have it here. If there is a mistake the crowd are in uproar. If the ref doesn’t make a call, the crowd are in uproar. They are really vocal and this is driving us.
“Crowds can make a massive difference. They do sway referees and they do put pressure on the opposition and gee up the home players. It is not just the boys playing well and making the top four, but the crowd has really come on. That has been one of the best things to see.”
Lamont will hope that tomorrow’s occasion is merely the appetiser to a home semi-final the following weekend.
He accepts, however, that a tough challenge awaits. “If we are not on our game, we will lose,” he said. “Last week [a 21-10 loss at Ospreys] we were a bit off the boil. Even watching it, you could see it just wasn’t the way we know we can play. We weren’t quite clinical enough with the ball. It’s the same this weekend. Ulster are also a top-four team. They are vying for all the same things we are vying for.
“The same mistakes will cost us. If we don’t look after the ball or don’t show them enough respect it will cost us. We are a great team and, when we put our game together, we can put anyone away, but Ulster bullied us the last time we played them over there [a 29-9 Pro12 defeat] and we can’t let that happen again, especially out there on our home turf and especially not with what we are fighting for.”