Glasgow Warriors face hooker crisis ahead of Euro crunch

Ruaridh Jackson is hauled down just short of the line by Cardiff's Jarrod Evans. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson.

GLASGOW coach Dave Rennie has an anxious wait before learning how many hookers he will have fit for the Champions Cup match against Montpellier on Friday night. After losing their first two fixtures, the Warriors have to win the Pool 3 game to have any chance of reaching the knockout stages, but Friday’s hard-fought league win over Cardiff has left them depleted in the key front-row position.

George Turner was taken off in the first half of the 40-16 victory against the Blues, Pat MacArthur was injured against the Ospreys last weekend, and Fraser Brown is also a doubt, according to Rennie. If all three were to be ruled out, James Malcolm would be the only recognised hooker available for selection, and, while the coach is hoping for the best, he is all too aware that his squad could be seriously depleted for a game which he expects to be one of the biggest physical challenges of the season.

“We’ve gone from four fit hookers to one,” Rennie said. “Hopefully George will have an opportunity to come back. I’m not sure about Fraser – he’s got no symptoms, he’s clear, so we’re hoping that he has a chance. Pat’s doubtful as well.”



The win over Cardiff was the Warriors’ 10th on the trot in the PRO14, but it would have been a lot closer had the Welsh side kept 15 men on the park, and Rennie will demand a more consistent effort from his team when Vern Cotter’s side come to Scotstoun.

“We’ve got to keep raising the bar each week,” he continued. “Montpellier will be a massive step up, certainly in the size of them – they’re huge. Big backs, big forwards. It will be a big challenge, a different sort of challenge, and they’ll be pretty desperate as well.

“It should be a hell of a game. [Former All Blacks stand-off] Aaron Cruden will be running the ship for them – it will be the first time I’ve coached against him, I think.”

Glasgow full-back Ruaridh Jackson, who was named man of the match on Friday after playing in his third game in seven days, agreed with his coach that Montpellier will present an extraordinary physical test. While accepting there were plenty of imperfections in the Warriors’ performance against Cardiff, the Scotland international argued that the game could turn out to be ideal preparation for the match against the French.

“You don’t want teams to roll over, and Cardiff definitely didn’t,” Jackson said. “They really challenged us, and that’s where we want to be. We’ve got to be winning these tough games. We’ve got Europe coming up, we’ve got a couple of physical games against Montpellier, who have a massive pack and back line, so Cardiff was a really good test for us physically and hopefully it will stand us in good stead for next week.

“Ten from ten – you can’t take anything away from that. It’s an awesome start to the season in the league, and we’ve got to take that form into Europe.

“We were frustrated with the start in Europe. We actually put in a decent performance against Exeter down there, but they got a try to take it away from us at the end. We were bitterly disappointed with the Leinster performance, and when we have people coming to our home patch, like Montpellier next up, we want to put on a performance for the home crowd.

“Their whole game will revolve round big, physical carriers. Look through their team from one to 15 – their wingers are bigger than the majority of packs. It’s going to be a really brutal test and we need to front up. We’ll be gearing up for that, for sure.”

Those losses to Exeter and Leinster have left Glasgow at the foot of the pool, and they know that even winning their remaining four games may not be enough to take them into the quarter-finals for the second season running. But Jackson knows from personal experience that qualification, while improbable, is by no means impossible.

“We can rescue it,” he insisted. “It’s definitely the pool of death. We’ve got all the to performers from each league, so it was always going to be a tough group. But when I was down at Wasps we lost our first two games and we managed to qualify for the quarters, so it can be done. We just need to go on a hell of a run.”   

 

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About Stuart Bathgate 1112 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.