GLASGOW WARRIORS will escape the howling wind and cutting rain of Scotland’s west coast this weekend with a trip to northern Italy to take on Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma; and while there might be some truth in that old saying about a change being as good as a rest, centre Nick Grigg says the players are acutely aware that they absolutely cannot afford to relax on Saturday afternoon – despite the home team currently sitting 46 league points behind the visitors in Conference A of the PRO14.
If recent experience is anything to go by, the Warriors will have to play for the full 80 minutes if they are to avoid an embarrassing slip-up.
Grigg was named man-of-the-match in only his second Warriors start the last time they visited Zebre, but recalls that it was a little bit too close for comfort on that occasion after a 19-point lead with half an hour to go was cut back to just five points as the game entered its death throes – before a Rory Clegg penalty eased the tension.
Funnily enough, it was a similar story in the other game Glasgow played on Italy, with a 16-point lead against Benetton Treviso after half an hour disappearing to a tied match with just six minutes to go – and this time Clegg scored a try to save the away team’s blushes.
“We were doing really well and then they came back and it was kind of a nail-biting finish in the end,” chuckles Grigg. “I was quite new to the squad, but I don’t think we ever take any side lightly. It was just one of those days.”
“Fingers crossed, I can put the same kind of performance in that I did last year [against Zebre]. I know they have a much better squad this year and they know how to attack and are good on defence – we’re not taking them for granted.”
It has been a tough few weeks for the Warriors with back-to-back defeats to Montpellier propelling them out of the Champions Cup with two pool matches still to be played, and then a shock defeat to Edinburgh costing them their unbeaten record in the PRO14. A hard-fought victory in the re-match against their inter-city rivals last Saturday steadied the ship, but they will be desperate to rediscover some of their early season swagger before the squad breaks up again for the Six Nations window.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system,” he admitted, when asked about the Edinburgh defeat. “But maybe it was good to get that bump to put us back into a winning streak.
“You’ve got to look at it in a positive way. I feel the best way to put it is that we needed that to put us back on track and realise we are not undefeatable – we need to keep on improving each week.
There is only this weekend’s Italian job and then the final two European pool matches to go before all eyes once again turns to the national cause, so the pressure is now on for any player with aspirations of competing in the Six Nations to state their case.
New Zealand born Grigg made his international debut for the land of his grandfather’s birth against Fiji in Suva during the summer, and was a member of the training squad throughout the Autumn Test schedule without getting a chance to add to his cap tally.
Having recently elbowed his way ahead of Huw Jones in the pecking order at the Warriors, he has got to be in with a chance of being involved again this spring.
‘I’ve got to perform over the next few weeks. I’ve been trying hard so fingers crossed I can get a foot in the door again,” he agreed.