GLASGOW are four points worse off than they were at this stage last season, but they are in better shape both mentally and physically as they prepare for the PRO14 play-offs, according to Tommy Seymour. By the same token, the Warriors winger believes that, although they are in a more insecure position at present, they have learned the lessons of last season, when they qualified with months to spare only to fall flat in their home semi-final.
To date, Dave Rennie’s team have only qualified for the play-offs but, with just a three-point lead over Munster at the top of Conference A, have yet to secure a home semi-final. They could clinch one this weekend if they win at Leinster and Munster are beaten by Benetton, otherwise the issue will not be decided until the last round of regular-season fixtures at the end of the month, when Edinburgh visit Scotstoun, possibly with a play-off fight of their own still to be settled.
With a series of decisive games coming up, Seymour himself feels particularly refreshed, having only returned to action in last week’s win over Ulster after an enforced break for a few weeks because of a rib injury acquired playing for Scotland against Wales. After just one match back he has yet to reach peak match fitness, but he has been encouraged by how well rested he and his colleagues feel at a point in the season when fatigue is usually taking its toll.
“I feel OK, because I’ve been out for a few weeks and my lungs are still adjusting a little bit,” Seymour said. “But I’m pleased with the GPS stats I managed to cover on the weekend and felt relatively good.
“You don’t want to say anything too early, but we’re feeling good – as I’m sure a lot of the other teams in contention are. We know it’s a massive factor to have a home semi-final and have that chance to get a bit of extra rest in the legs as well. That’s a motivating factor. We’re feeling good and we’re confident and training very well, so I’d like to think we’re in a good place mentally as well as physically.”
They will be in an even better place mentally if they get the desired result on Saturday against Leinster, who made sure some time ago of a home semi-final by winning Conference B. There are signs that the Irish province may have lost their focus a little, with their last two games having been a defeat by Edinburgh and a draw with Benetton, but Seymour nonetheless expects a tough battle at the RDS, where Glasgow have not won since 2011.
“Leinster would be tricky regardless of what time of year it is. They’ve done great: they’ve pretty much wrapped things up for themselves. For us it’s a case of yes, we’ve got play-offs to think about and home semi-finals, but we also talk about the RDS and Leinster as a place where we have not won in a long time, and that would be really special for us.
“We’ve had a couple of occasions where we’ve come very close and then let leads slip. That’s a motivating factor regardless of anything else. Our players are keen to go over there to what is one of the top sides in Europe, see where we are and set a marker down for the rest of the tournament.
“I wouldn’t really expect [complacency] of a team like Leinster. But we’re using last year especially to where we were and what it meant for our run-in more. It’s a focusing factor for guys who hadn’t been part of it.
“It was important for us to realise the mistakes we made last year and where our mindset was, and how important it is to yes, achieve a home semi-final, but also to have the momentum and the confidence going into the play-off weeks. We’re using that, and Ulster was a great marker for us on the weekend and we’ll hope to continue that.”
No-one connected with Glasgow wants to look much beyond Saturday’s match at the moment, but at the back of everyone’s mind is the fact that this year’s final will take place at Celtic Park. “You don’t want to look too far down the road,” Seymour added. “The home semi-final right now is probably the most you can look at. But obviously it would be lovely to play in our home city – to allow our friends to experience a big game like that in our own city would be amazing.”