Humphreys challenges Warriors fringe players to seize their moment

Forwards coach says prospect of earning selection for Saracens quarter-final should drive performances on during Six Nations

Jonathan Humphreys
Jonathan Humphreys believes that Glasgow Warriors can benefit from having so many players away on international duty. Image: © Craig Watson -

GLASGOW WARRIORS may not have got the morale-boosting win they were after against Saracens on Saturday afternoon, and the general feeling is that they have struggled in recent weeks to maintain their early season form – but the good news is that they are still alive in Europe and, with their international contingent now away on Six Nations duty, the next two months offers an opportunity for the squad to refresh and refocus with several fringe players being challenged to seize their moment.

They Scotstoun outfit five Guinness PRO14 games to play over the next two months before they face Saracens once again, this time in the quarter-final of the Champions Cup, at the end of March, and while number of the 20 players they currently have involved in Gregor Townsend’s Six Nations training squad will be released back to the club at various points during this international window, key men such as Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Ryan Wilson and Jonny Gray are not likely to be seen again at club level until the week of the Saracens match.

It is a routine which happens every Autumn Test and Six Nations window, although the situation is exacerbated slightly this year by an injury list which includes club co-captain Callum Gibbins, hookers Fraser Brown [who took part in training yesterday but is not expected back this weekend] and George Turner, tight-head prop Zander Fagerson [who also trained with team yesterday after four months out with an ankle injury] and his brother Matt.

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Rather than being a negative, Warriors assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys believes that having so many leading players missing can be a real benefit for the club both in the short and long term.

“When it comes to this [PRO14] competition, these boys are vitally important to what happens at the end of the campaign,” he explained. “We’re delighted with how we went [when the international players were away] in the Autumn, and it is a challenge for us to replicate that sort of form and that sort of intensity during this Six Nations window.

“We’re really, really confident in the squad we’ve got. We’ve still got a very, very good team left here.

“What we’ve done in the past is reward boys who have done well during this period, and the reward for playing well now could be a quarter-final spot against Saracens. That is obviously a massive carrot for all the young players.

“If you look at Grant Stewart, he was in the academy last year and he has now played more Champions Cup rugby than PRO14, and played very, very well,” he added. “Kiran McDonald played well last year and ended up in the European squad. The likes of George Horne and Stafford McDowall have also benefitted from that in the past. So, that’s what players coming into the team should be looking at and working hard to emulate.”

Next up for the Warriors is the Ospreys at Scotstoun on Friday night, and while the coaching team have a fair idea of which Scotland squad members are likely to be released back for that match they are taking nothing for granted.

“The relationship between Dave Rennie and Gregor Townsend is great,” he said. “There is a lot of communication, so we’re well versed in what is likely to happen, but obviously injuries can change that, so we’ve got to prepare with what we’ve got. If we get people back then it obviously a big boost for us, but if we don’t we have prepared for that … to represent the jersey in the right manner.

“It is great that we are in the quarter-finals of Europe, but for us at the moment it is vital that we front up and do well in this competition over the next few weeks,” he continued. “The league is still massive for us at the moment, we are in a real dog fight, so after these four or five games we’ve got we can start looking at Saracens again.

“There are constant work-ons to be getting on with, which are going to be vital if we are to beat any of the top teams in Europe, whether that is in the Pro14 or the Champions Cup, so we need to be focussing on that every week.”

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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.