ASK yourself which virtues typify Glasgow Warriors at their best and you might plump for a sense of adventure, a commitment to attack, or a willingness to take risks. Ask Matt Fagerson, however, and you would get a different answer.
The forward is well aware of the importance of creativity to the team, but he believes that a humbler virtue is more fundamental to the Warriors’ well-being, a virtue that was there in abundance in last week’s 27-24 Champions Cup win against La Rochelle. To wit, grit.
Fagerson believes that the relentless physicality which saw Glasgow prevail in France has been missing at times this season, but is now convinced that they have turned a corner and will show that quality again when La Rochelle come to Scotstoun on Saturday. And, while there has been some talk of the French club fielding a second string as they now have no hope of qualifying from Pool Two, he and his team-mates will take nothing for granted.
“The grit that boys had towards the end of last season is coming back,” he said. “Towards the end of last season we found our mojo where we had to dig quite deep. It might have looked flashy when we came away with 50 points against Ulster in the [PRO14] semi-final, but a lot of that came off brutal, physical carries, brutal cleans and all the nasty stuff people don’t like to talk about. There is a proper grit about the team.
“Compared to last season maybe the physicality has not been there. [But] when we’ve had really good wins this season like the one against Sale, our forwards have done a massive effort. At times people can view us as a flashy team, but they don’t see the hard grit. We have 100 per cent lineout in the Champions Cup and I think we had that last year as well, but people don’t always notice that.
“Sale, the first half was a pretty horrible game, so we had to show some grit, come out with a win in that one,” Fagerson continued, referring to the home Champions Cup win. “It was the same there [in La Rochelle] to come back from 18-6 at one point, to score before half-time, then score again . . . . We showed a lot of determination to come back, boys putting their bodies on the line.
“It was touch and go at times; we let them have an early lead. Especially at the end it was pretty nerve-wracking, but it shows the grit the boys had. We had to dig deep to pull it out of the bag.”
Ali Price’s try-saving tackle late in the game last Saturday showed it was not only Glasgow’s forwards who were able and willing to dig deep, and Fagerson explained that the squad will be prepared to put in a similar all-round effort on Saturday too. Six points behind leaders Exeter Chiefs with three games to play, the Warriors need to this one well – but will take nothing for granted even if their opponents field a weakened team.
“We’ll train for the best team that La Rochelle can put out. We won’t look at it and think ‘Oh, they’ve put out a B team, so it’s fine, we can do this and that, change up and start chucking offloads everywhere’.
“We came off after Saturday and a win away in France still a bit upset with the way we played, the way the team played, in letting them get such an early lead. We have a massive job to do this weekend, especially in front of our home crowd. We have to put on a show.”