AFTER a shaky start to the season which brought just six wins from their first 13 games played in either the Champions Cup or the PRO14, Glasgow Warriors’ form has improved dramatically since the turn of the year with the Scotstoun outfit winning four and drawing one of five games played.
However, while this is all very encouraging with respect to the team’s push for the PRO14 play-offs, it should be noted that these wins have been against perennial PRO14 strugglers Benetton, Zebre and Dragons, as well as a Sale Sharks side who were already out of the Champions Cup and had rested a number of their key players.
This weekend will bring a big step-up when the Warriors head across to Dublin to take on all-conquering Leinster – who have the remarkable record of 18 wins from 18 games played – but assistant coach John Dalziel says his side has nothing to fear.
“They [Leinster] are pretty stingy in terms of points [conceded], so we’ll need to be at our best,” said Dalziel. “But we’re confident and they know we have a game that can hurt them. It will take a huge performance, though.
“We beat them [in Dublin] last year when we had to do a lot of defending,” he added. “We are renowned for attacking but we know both sides of the ball have to be right and we got that right over there. Defence will have to be at that level it has been at in recent weeks and our attack has to be clean.”
Warriors have now climbed to third in Conference A which means their destiny is back in their own hands, and Dalziel was fairly bullish about the team’s prospects for the remainder of the campaign.
“While there’s a lot of games still to be played and plenty of battles to be won, we’re clear about what we need to achieve week to week and we’ll be battling it out to do that,” he stated. “We need to get in the top three and to do that we have to win the majority of our games. We’ve had good bonus point wins [recently]. We are trying to focus on the performance rather than just the result.”
Leinster had 12 players in the Ireland squad which took on England at the weekend, and they will almost all be rested this weekend (while Cian Healy is out with a hip injury), but the strength in depth at the province is such that they are able to replace international-class players with international-class players.
Warriors are also comfortable with their squad depth and, in any case, are not quite so exposed with only eight players involved for Scotland against Italy last Saturday.
Scrum-half George Horne and No 8 Matt Fagerson, who both played just over 25 minutes off the bench in Rome, were back training with Glasgow on Monday morning and are expected to get game time against Leinster. George Turner, Huw Jones, Kyle Steyn, Ratu Tagive and Tom Gordon, who are all part of Scotland’s Six Nations squad but have had limited or no game time, are in the same boat.
“We’ve got five or six back. The starters [for Scotland] will be retained,” confirmed Dalziel.