Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff: Kenny Murray plans for gang welfare to beat the Blues

Coaching team emphasise defending home patch in bid to restore squad morale in Champions Cup

Glasgow Warriors stand-off Adam Hastings
Glasgow Warriors stand-off Adam Hastings needs a big game against Cardiff Blues this weekend - if selected - after a below-par outing against Benetton. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson.

THE home team will not take to the field bearing illegal weapons, nor will Cardiff Blues turn up at Scotstoun to find Tongs Ya Bass sprayed on the walls of their dressing room. But at least one aspect of what Warriors assistant coach Kenny Murray calls the Glasgow gang mentality will be in evidence when the teams meet in the Champions Cup on Sunday – the fierce determination to defend their own territory.

It is an approach which on the whole has worked well this season for Glasgow, who were undefeated at home in the PRO14 until Edinburgh won there in the last game of the year. Saracens also won there in the opening round of the European pool stages, but since that reverse the Warriors have won their three succeeding games to give themselves a good fighting chance of reaching the quarter-finals for just the second time in their history.

However, after their double defeat by Edinburgh was followed by the loss to Benetton last weekend, Glasgow may just be in need of a little extra toughening up. Hence Murray’s emphasis in yesterday’s press conference at Scotstoun on the team’s need to maintain control of their own turf.

“One of the things we’ve talked about this year is defending our home,” Murray said. “We use the sort of gang mentality. That’s what we talk about – teams having to come here and being scared to come to Scotstoun. We’re trying to link that to the Glasgow gang mentality, having your patch, and that’s something we’ll be talking about this week when Cardiff come here. We’ll stop short of razor gangs!,” he added, lest anyone be in danger of taking his statements too literally.

“We’ve done pretty well up until the Edinburgh game in the last couple of weeks – we’ve actually defended really well at home. But we’ve got to be tougher to beat. We weren’t tough to beat in Treviso and that was the disappointing thing.

“The bottom line is we weren’t clinical enough. We had opportunities to win the game. Even late in the game, we had overlaps and passes went astray and going forward. At this level, you just can’t do that.

“We didn’t underestimate Treviso in any way. We spoke about them before the game – all you’ve got to do is look at their performances and results. They’re a much better team this year, particularly at home.

“In terms of sorting things, it’s about training. We need to work on certain things and get some self-belief back. Some of our passing at the weekend wasn’t great, so we need to be better there. And I think we just need to be patient and keep the ball more, because we conceded 22 turnovers. That’s probably the biggest stat in a game of rugby – the number of turnovers you win and lose – and we lost far too many last weekend.”

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The Battle of Hastings

That high number of turnovers indicates a team problem, and the concession of three tries to Benetton was also down to general defensive shortcomings, but if one man epitomised what was wrong with Glasgow at the Stadio Monigo it was Adam Hastings. The stand-off’s impetuous decision-making seemed to rub off on the rest of the team, but rather than dwell on such shortcomings, the coaching team have emphasised the positive in their work with the playmaker over the last couple of days.

“You’ve got to build him up,” Murray continued. “The easy thing to do is go in and pick out all the negative things he’s done. You’ve got to pick him up – he’s got to understand what he hasn’t done well and why that’s happened.

“Is he getting too flat at times? Is his body shape in attack not good enough? I know Dave sat down with him and spoke with him and so did Jason [O’Halloran, the attack coach].

“I spoke to him about his defence. His defence has really improved the last couple of weeks. His low tackling has been an issue in the past, but at the weekend his tackling was actually pretty good.

“You don’t become a poor player overnight. He just needs to take the feedback he’s getting from the coaches on board, learn, and take it on to the pitch.

“He’s had a lot of really good games this year. He’s made a lot of good line breaks. His kicking out of hand has also been really good and it’s something we’d like to see him do more.

“He’s a naturally attacking No 10. He likes to attack the line and find space. But at this level you need to balance your game. You need to get yourself into good positions to attack and that’s probably where we’ve not been great over the last three weeks against Edinburgh and Treviso.

“But we’ll just keep trying to help Adam improve. You don’t become a shit player overnight.”

Stopping the rot

The same goes for the team as a whole. Despite those three consecutive defeats, Glasgow are very much in the running in both league and cup, and if they can regain their poise and patience, they should be able to stop the rot.

“First of all, it’s about self-belief,” Murray explained when asked how the coaches are planning to turn the team’s fortunes round. “When you lose games, the big thing is that guys start to think about losing, rather than what we’ve done so far this season.

“We tried to talk in our review about the things we did well in the game against Treviso. We had 40-odd tackle breaks and made 14 line breaks, so we’re creating a lot of good, good stuff, but we just didn’t finish it off and that’s what killed us in the end. Our collisions in the game were poor – both sides of the ball.

“We’ve been defending really well in our own 22, but at the weekend we allowed them over the try line too easily once they got into that area of the park. It’s just about trying to reinforce what we’ve done well so far this season and make sure we build a bit of self-belief during training this week.”

The team announced by head coach Dave Rennie on Friday is likely to be markedly different from the one that began the game in Treviso. The players who were simply rested for that match will be available, of course, while the majority of those who sat it out because of minor niggles will also be able to play. That includes Pete Horne, Stuart Hogg, Callum Gibbins and Oli Kebble, although there is still some uncertainty about Huw Jones.

“Shuggie had a bit of a rib problem,” Murray added. “But he also trained yesterday [Monday] and we’ll see if he can get through the contact this week. If he’s not available this week, then he’s not far off it. He’ll be close to playing.”

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Stuart Bathgate
About Stuart Bathgate 587 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.