Heineken Cup 2014: Glasgow’s Townsend issues rallying cry
Heineken Cup 2014: Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend urges the Warriors to give it their "best shot" against Toulon
Gregor Townsend wants Glasgow Warriors to show that they can play for 80 minutes in their final Heineken Cup pool match against Toulon on Saturday.
The Glasgow club suffered a 51-28 defeat by the reigning champions in a 10-try thriller last October and need results to go their way to have a chance of reaching the quarter-finals of Europe’s second competition, the Amlin Cup.
“When it was announced at the beginning of the season, whether we’re going for first place with Toulon or out of the tournament like we were with Northampton last year, this was going to be a huge game for us playing against Toulon in front of a big crowd,” Townsend told his pre-match media conference on Thursday.
“Now we’ve played them once, and we only played half a game against them really, we want to go out there and show that we can play for 80 minutes and give it our best shot.”
The former Scottish international makes six changes to his starting XV which sees fly-half Ruaridh Jackson and blind-side flanker James Eddie join an elite group of players, including Dan Parks, Al Kellock and Johnnie Beattie, to reach the 100-cap milestone for the Warriors.
In a reshuffled pack, Pat MacArthur and Moray Low come into the front row with Leone Nakawara partnering Tim Swinson at lock. Eddie is promoted from the bench to join Ryan Wilson and captain Chris Fusaro in the back row.
Dynamic Fijian Niko Matawalu starts on the wing with Sean Lamont switching to outside-centre to give the Warriors experience in an area where Toulon like to move the ball through the hands of Australian Matt Giteau and Maxime Mermoz, who scored two tries each the last time the sides met.
Home and away defeats to fellow Pro12 side Cardiff Blues ended the Warriors’ hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, but a gritty 15-10 win at the Exeter Chiefs last week was a morale-boosting result and gives them an outside chance of continuing their European adventure.
Townsend added: “We saw first-hand how good a side Toulon are when we played them in October and they pose a dangerous attacking threat all over the pitch, as well as being very strong defensively.
“We were very disappointed not to get the job done against Cardiff home and away. We weren’t good enough by our own standards to win those games, but [the self-confidence] was always there.
“We fell off from our standards, but we knew we could quickly get back there.
“It has been an interesting four weeks with two games being called off and not having that 1872 cup game to play, but the players have handled themselves really well to go to Edinburgh, who were all full of confidence, and us having a game called off the week before, to get back and playing well was great.
“Then to go down to Exeter on the back of another game called off and Christmas and New Year, they stuck to their task and were excellent.
“The belief in the group is there and it’s driven by the players. They work really hard for each other and they know that they’re capable of playing better, and they’re improving week-to-week, and this is a huge game for us now; a real challenge.”
The Warriors coach is confident the game will go ahead despite more rain forecast this week in Glasgow and parts of the Scotstoun pitch in front of the main stand under covers.
Townsend continued: “Compared to a lot of pitches we play on at this time of year, it’s looking great. It’s not had a game on it for a few weeks, so if it’s dry I think it’ll be a decent track, similar to what we played on at Exeter.
“I hope for the supporters and for us that both teams are able to play open rugby. If it’s heavy rain and the pitch is soft it’ll be a different type of rugby.
“We’re not averse to playing in these conditions. So if it is wet, we have the experience of doing that. We must get the defence right, discipline, set-piece. In all these areas, Toulon are strong, so we’re dealing with a team who are the best defensive record in France, great goal-kicking, stars are the best in France as well.
“We saw the best of their pack at Toulon earlier this season. We saw the power of their forwards against Cardiff last week, so we just have to make sure we do our jobs right.”
Warriors XV to face Toulon at Scotstoun Stadium: Hogg; Maitland, S Lamont, Dunbar, Matawalu; Jackson, Pyrgos; Grant, MacArthur, Low, Nakawara, Swinson, Eddie, Fusaro (capt), Wilson.
Replacements: Hall, Yanuyanutawa, Kalman, Ryder, Holmes, Cusiter, Weir, Vernon.