GLASGOW’s new signings from abroad have been the focus of attention in recent months, with the likes of Josh McKay, Jack Dempsey, Sebastian Cancelliere and Sione Tuipulotu all attracting considerable publicity. But according to Kenny Murray, a new recruit from far closer to home could well prove just as crucial in the coming season – former Edinburgh forward Ally Miller.
The 25-year-old agreed terms with the Warriors back in March at the same time as Rory Darge, both back-row forwards having apparently been deemed surplus to requirements by then Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill. Darge was allowed to make the move west early, and made an immediate impact when he was given his chance towards the end of last season. By contrast Miller has yet to play for his new team – but when he does, according to Murray, he is likely to make just as big an impact.
“Rory showed last year in the games he played just how important he can be for us over the next couple of years to come,” the Warriors assistant coach said yesterday. “People may look at him and think he’s small, but he’s no smaller than guys like Hamish Watson, who’s obviously an outstanding player and played for the Lions.
“Rory has similar assets to Hamish. He’s got great fends, great footwork, he can get in behind defences really well. And what I love about him is just his workrate and his effort, and his desire to learn. He’s always on the computer. He’s been great.
“And I think Ally Miller, who has come along the M8 from Edinburgh, could be a revelation for us this year as well. He’s a fantastic player – big strong ball-carrier and he can play along the back row.
“Everything we’ve seen in training with Ally makes me really excited to see him play this year. He’s another powerful athlete. He maybe didn’t get the game time he’d hoped to get at Edinburgh, but I think he could be fantastic for us. You want to get your balance in your back row, but when you’ve got guys like Dempsey breaking the gain line, I think guys like Ally in particular will really feed off that and be devastating for us this year.”
There has certainly been a sizeable turnover of personnel at Scotstoun in recent months, with Adam Hastings, Huw Jones, Niko Matawalu and Leone Nakarawa among the prominent departures. The loss of such creative players may be a source of concern to some Glasgow supporters, but Murray is certain that such concern will prove groundless. While not attempting to downplay the virtues of those now-departed stars, the assistant coach is confident that the team’s new signings will be just as capable of producing the goods.
“I’m really excited about the bit of X-factor we’ve got in the side this year with guys like Josh McKay coming in at full-back,” he continued. “You watched him for Canterbury and it was line break after line break. Sione Tuipulotu as well at centre – he’s already shown in training what a real attacking asset he’s going to be.
“Sebastian Cancelliere has got real speed. He’s got great assets: his footwork, his speed, his ability to accelerate from zero to 20 in points of a second is just incredible.
“There are some cracking guys coming in who I think will be real crowd-pleasers at Scotstoun this year. Obviously people look at folk who have gone – guys like Adam and Huw – but the guys we’ve brought in look like they’re going to be real assets for us.”
Having said all that, Murray was quick to insist that entertainment should not be seen as a virtue in itself. Instead, addressing a theme that has been central to proceedings since Danny Wilson took over as head coach some 15 months ago, he suggested that a sizeable element of pragmatism had to be part of the Warriors’ make-up.
“Hopefully it will be a team that’s winning games first, before we worry about entertaining, but obviously the fans will want to be entertained. The key thing for us is to get a good balance, isn’t it? We want to be effective enough that we can beat teams at Scotstoun and away from home, and obviously what we’re trying for is to make sure there’s a good product on the pitch.
“That’s what we’re striving to do in terms of how we attack and how we defend, and as I said we believe we’ve got players this year who can do that. Across the board – not just in the backs but in the forwards as well.
“Guys like Jack Dempsey in the back row. He’s shown already what his ability is. He’s a cracking go-forward player, great footwork, he keeps the ball alive really well And then you’ve got guys like Rory Darge, Matt Fagerson, Ryan Wilson, all competing for back-row places. As far as I’m concerned the crowd will really enjoy seeing these players play at Scotstoun this year. And it’s great to have the crowds back in from the start of the season.”
Many of those new signings, as well as Lions Ali Price and Zander Fagerson, will be unavailable for the Warriors’ forthcoming two pre-season friendlies. Wilson said last week that could mean giving some academy players a run out, and both he and Murray have therefore been keeping a close eye on Super6.
“I watched Southern Knights v Boroughmuir on Sunday and Danny was through at the Stirling v Ayr game on Friday night so we’re keeping close tabs on it,” Murray said. “It’s great for me to see so many young academy boys playing.
“For Boroughmuir on Sunday the young boy Duncan Munn played at centre. He’s not played a lot of rugby at that level. He’s been playing for Cartha, my club, but I thought he really stood out against a really good midfield of Nyle Godsmark and Craig Jackson.
“And there were a lot of guys playing for Stirling from the academy as well. In Super6 it’s really important to get those academy boys through and playing, as well as the guys the clubs are bringing in to play.
“As far as I’m concerned the games have been pretty good. We speak every week about it and try to watch the games at the weekend and then we’ll talk about players and try to identify positions where we feel we might be a little bit thin until guys come back in.
“So we know who the best wingers are, the best centres are, the best props are. On the coaches’ WhatsApp last night we were chatting about one of the boys who played in that game who we might be interested in bringing in for training.
“You’ve got to remember that the purpose of Super6 is try to close the gap between the club game and the pro game and to give guys an opportunity to be seen at that level with a view to stepping up into the professional game. So I’m sure you’ll see a few guys this year who are involved in Super6 who move into the pro game at some point between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“I think they’re really well coached. Doing that extra training now I’d say about 80 to 90 per cent of the guys have got really good conditioning but there are still players in there who really need to step up a wee bit in terms of their conditioning to play at that level. But I think it’s certainly better than I saw in the Premiership before the Super6 concept came in. Speaking to head coaches, there is a real drive to make it even better, whether that’s the rugby or the non-rugby aspects. I think it can get better and better.”