Rob Harley: Home games more important than ever for Glasgow

Rob Harley believes winning at home will be crucial for Glasgow if they are to reach the quarter-finals

By Gareth Llewellyn

Rob Harley believes winning at home will be crucial for Glasgow Warriors if they are to reach the quarter-finals of this season’s European Rugby Champions Cup.

The Scottish club begin their campaign against Bath on Saturday with a capacity crowd of 7,000 expected at Scotstoun Stadium and, with the revamped tournament seeing only the best clubs qualify on merit, the competition is fiercer than it was in the Heineken Cup.

With the Warriors finding it difficult to win on the road in Europe and French clubs notoriously difficult to beat in front of raucous supporters, there is even more pressure on the Gregor Townsend’s side to take three home wins from three, starting tomorrow.

“I think home games are more important than ever,” said the Scotland international flanker. “The fact we have the first one here we can set our stall in the tournament.

“We’re going to have a great crowd for it. It’s the extra thing you need in this sort of competition, absolutely, like the [PRO12] semi-final against Munster.”

It is not the first time that the Warriors have begun a European campaign at home against the West Country club, with Bath visiting Firhill Stadium in 2011.

It was a match noted for its bizarre ending as the Warriors eventually won 26-21 through a late Richie Gray try, but Harley has fond memories of both games against Bath that season, getting on the scoresheet as the Warriors lost their away clash at the Recreation Ground.

“I think I started that game [at Firhill],” he said. “I was actually right behind Richie when he went for the try and if he didn’t score, I was having it. I was just pleased he got it down.

“[It was a] quite incredible finish to a game, once Duncan Weir’s drop goal got blocked it was just chaos. Their full-back Nick Abendanon was clearly favourite to get the ball but it took the craziest bounce back towards Richie as he was rushing in.”

Both Bath and the Warriors are riding high in their respective leagues and their form has been comparable as they lost to Wasps and Ulster, respectively, last weekend, but the similarities don’t end there for Harley.

“We’ve always had good entertaining games against them, they want to play a brand of rugby and attack from deep, that’s maybe the style of the two teams,” he said.

“It makes it tiring. It’s never one of those games where there’s kicks to touch all the time. It’s definitely a challenge for forwards. You’re getting pulled out of position all the time and you’re seeing things you don’t see much, asked to defend multi-phase, in all parts of the field.

“There is a lot of running, but you get the ball in space and get a chance to play as well. We’re both trying to play fast, open rugby.

“We put a big emphasis in the squad about being able to play at high speed in everything we do. That shows in the way we play when we get those half-breaks, off loads go in and guys flood through in support. I think the emphasis pays off in having guys who can go high speeds, break tackles and get support runners.”

Last season, Bath reached the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup, losing to Northampton Saints at the Cardiff Arms Park, while the Warriors again failed to make it out of their Heineken Cup pool.

This season, the bookmakers fancy neither club to progress, with the Warriors outsiders at around 6/1, but reaching the quarter-finals is a target for Harley and his team-mates, who will forever be reminded of rivals Edinburgh’s semi-final appearance in the Heineken Cup in 2012.

“Since I’ve been here we haven’t progressed beyond the group stages in Europe,” Harley said. “So that’s a major goal for me and the rest of the squad.

“I think we do have extra pressure on us from the league in what the tournaments means, just to raise our standards just a little bit.”

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