GLASGOW WARRIORS assistant coach John Dalziel has challenged the team to use Saturday’s Champions Cup clash away to La Rochelle as the launch-pad to a huge month in which they must get their season back on track or risk being left amongst the also-rans in both Europe and the PRO14 come next April and May.
The Scotstoun outfit slumped to their fifth defeat in nine matches in all competitions when they were dismantled at home by a far more clinical Leinster outfit on Saturday night, making this their worst start to a season since they lost six of their first nine matches in 2010-11. However, Dalziel stressed that the team’s destiny is still in their own hands so long as they find a bit of form soon, ideally with a win at the Stade Marcel Deflandre this weekend.
“For both teams, it’s kind of last-chance saloon because we’ve both got to try and get a result,” he said. “We’ve got to go to an intimidating atmosphere with a sell-out home crowd.
“They had a big win last weekend and jumped up a few places in the French league, so they’ll be in confident mood. But we’ve got a lot of lads who’ve played international rugby against France over there, so we know the psyche and mentality that it takes to perform over there.
“It’s an experienced group of players we have, nobody is losing confidence in each other. We’re more determined than ever to turn it around this weekend.”
While that match is not an absolute must-win, it would be a big boost in the race to be one of the three best pool runners-up (assuming Exeter Chiefs already have a first place finish in Pool 2 stitched up), and a huge psychological boost ahead of the must-win return match at Scotstoun seven days later. Then it is a return to PRO14 action with now traditional festive double-header against arch-rivals Edinburgh at Scotstoun on the 21st December and Murrayfield on the 28th.
Glasgow don’t have a great recent record in these inter-city derby clashes, winning the 1872 Cup (awarded to the team with the best aggregate score over the series) only once in the last five years, and Dalziel says the side know they will have to buck that trend this season.
“The next four weeks will be huge,” he said. “We will know a lot more about ourselves and what we need to do at the end of that.
“At this time of the year, Glasgow are usually up at the top of the league and players have maybe been complacent in games around Christmas. That complacency won’t be there now as it’s a different picture for us. We need wins in the league to get up into the top three.
“The season goes on until June and we want to be in there come the play-offs. To do that we have to be in the top three but we’re not at the moment. We need a good spell of games.
“You want to win every game you play, especially at home,” he continued. “It’s pretty full-on at the moment, we’re in a spell of the season where the big games are coming thick and fast.
“As players and coaches, there was a bit of soul-searching after the game last weekend. You look at some of the stats and think: ‘How have we actually lost that game?’. We did a lot of good things and, individually, there were some really big performances from some of our guys in terms of tackles and carries, so the endeavour is certainly there. We just need to hit it this weekend with the clarity of where our shortfalls are, and I think we’ve nailed that.
“We are starting games very well and we are seeing the free-flowing rugby that we are known for, but opposition teams are always going to have periods in the game,” Dalziel added. “If that’s going to be around that middle period [of the game], then we need to look at how we manage that better.
“The buzz is still very much there among the boys. Nobody is panicking. We know it’s going to come, but it needs to come quite quickly so that we’re not leaving ourselves too much to do.”