Blair’s home guard ready to bolster Warriors ranks ahead of Dragons clash

Assistant coach believes a big response is on the cards after Kings catastrophe

25/09/18 - Scotstoun Stadium - Glasgow Glasgow Warriors Training Mike Blair Photo credit should read: © Craig Watson Craig Watson, 07479748060

IT is hard, from a Glasgow Warriors point of view, to rationalise what happened in Port Elizabeth last Saturday. The result itself against a previously winless Southern Kings outfit was deeply disappointing, but it was the nature of the defeat which was truly jaw-dropping.

The South Africans raced into a 21-0 lead with three converted tries inside 20-minutes and were 31-0 ahead with the bonus point in the bag by the time the Warriors finally got around to troubling the scorer just before the hour mark. The fact that Dave Rennie’s men ultimately managed to salvage a bonus point does not disguise the general woefulness of this performance.

It is particularly hard for assistant coach Mike Blair to provide any perspective on what went wrong given that he did not travel to South Africa, having been left at home to oversee the fringe players and those returning from injury instead – but he had a stab at it when he was presented to the press yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon.

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“To be 31-0 down after 52 minutes was a surprise. I guess how to deal with that situation is not something we’ve come across with that kind of score-line against an opposition who I think most people would believe we should be beating and beating comfortable,” he surmised.

“The chat was that the Tuesday session before the game was one of the best we’ve had this season. That can be great for the confidence, but you maybe breed a little bit of over-confidence. Then, apparently, the Thursday session was one of the worst sessions we’ve had. So, there’s that inconsistency of performance during that week which maybe led into what happened at the weekend. It’s a difficult one to put your finger on.

“We definitely believed the side we put out was capable of winning and winning well. We feel we’ve got a lot of strength in depth with the squad we have, but unfortunately it just didn’t click and there were individual errors by lots of players on the same day.

Time to freshen things up

While the former Scotland scrum-half was not directly involved with what went wrong, he may very well have played a key role in how the Warriors respond to that set-back – because Rennie is bound to want to shake things up ahead of the arrival of the Dragons at Scotstoun this coming Saturday evening, and a few of the players Blair has spent the last fortnight working with could well get their chance.

“There is an opportunity to have some fresher guys come in,” agreed Blair. “I really enjoyed the two weeks back here, the guys worked really well – the academy guys came in with us as well – so there was plenty of opportunity for the players to get themselves ready to make that step up. I’d say there will be a few of those guys involved this weekend.

“We’ve got a big squad, lots of players who are capable of playing in the team, and a result like that puts everyone on their toes. No one is untouchable, so anyone training well will put their hand up for a staring place.”



Some of the Warriors players who did not travel to South Africa are: wingers Rory Hughes, Lee Jones, Lelia Masaga, Niko Matawalu and Ratu Tagive, centre Paddy Kelly, stand-off Brandon Thomson, back-rows Matt Smith and Bruce Flockhart and second-row Andrew Davidson.

Honest appraisal

The players who did take part in the double-header against the Cheetahs and the Kings landed back in Scotland on Monday and reported in at Scotstoun on Tuesday morning for a video analysis session which didn’t pull any punches.

“We’ve had a good hard look at ourselves this morning, the players have had a chat and what happened was unacceptable,” said Blair. “What we’ve got is a really honest group of players so before you get the chance to say: ‘What were you doing here?’, they are holding up their hand and saying: ‘I’m watching this, and it is unacceptable – I should be here not there.’

“A lot of the stuff we have talked about was the little things that are so important to a team performance – but which we didn’t see in that game,” he continued. “Things like intensity, and work-rate off the ball. We turned over the ball 29 times. When you do that you’re going to be conceding some points.

“There has been a lot of chat about that [looking after the ball in contact], about decision-making, about why we’re making those errors. Some were skill based, some were effort based.

“They are an intelligent group and they are an honest group – so we expect a big reaction from this because the guys will be hurting more than the coaching staff. It was a difficult one to take.

“Trying to pick a positive out of a negative, it’s maybe a good thing that it’s happened this early in this season, which means we’ve had this frank conversation in September as opposed to March or April time.

“There was a good buzz around the squad today. There’s a lot of things to deal with, but they’re dealing with it in a positive manner. These are things that are easily fixed.

“We feel the preparation we have done [for this season] has been good, that there was an improvement during pre-season, so hopefully this is just a wee blip.”

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About David Barnes 3989 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.