URC: Connacht v Glasgow: Nigel Carolan challenges returning Scotland players to fight for selection

Connacht will be without Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen and Finlay Bealham this weekend due to Ireland's mandatory three-week rest protocol

Nigel Carolan. Image: Craig Watson
Nigel Carolan says the Glasgow players have been working on breathing techniques ahead of South Africa trip. Image: Craig Watson

GLASGOW WARRIORS attack coach Nigel Carolan has confirmed that all of the club’s World Cup participants have now returned to training and are available for selection ahead of Saturday’s away match against Connacht, although is does not necessarily follow that they will all play in that game. 

“The challenge for us is finding that cohesion with the guys who are coming back into our squad,” explained Carolan. “They are all training with us now but they might not all be selected.

“It’s trying to find the cohesive element and getting everyone on the same page. Everyone is back in the building and available for selection but we’ve got to appreciate that we’ve had guys training here for pre-season. We need to continue some of the momentum from a decent win against a youngish Leinster side and we’ve got to resist the temptation to drop all of our internationals back in. They will be managed back into our systems and that can’t be done overnight. They won’t all be involved but there will be some guys involved.


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“There are guidelines in place [for resting international players] but it’s not mandatory,” he added. “It’s about managing their loads and it’s over a prolonged period between now and the Six Nations. Some of them don’t want to be off because they are in peak condition. They’ve been in camp for months so some don’t want to stop and they’ll take their break further down the line.

“It’s systematic of the new mindset and environment here. Huw Jones said he really enjoyed himself last week and he’s doing what he does best. It’s difficult for some to take a break but they’ll all get a couple of weeks consecutively.

‘They are keen to contribute and keen to ensure that Glasgow are winning. They know they are part of something powerful and a strong community here at Glasgow Warriors. It’s really tough to keep them away, we will look after them but they enjoy what they’re doing.”

Carolan stressed that the performance of some of the players who got their chance while the internationalists were away means that there is no great imperative to rush more experienced players back.

“Selection is really difficult,” he said. “The line-out didn’t function as well as we would’ve liked in the second half against Leinster but outside of the set-piece Angus Fraser was unbelievable [at hooker]. He’s a player that we feel that we need to invest in and the only way they will get better is from time on the pitch. [So] there is a big dilemma around that and selection. Gregor Brown is another one. It’s going to be really difficult to leave these guys  out and explain to them that it’s not performance-related – the challenge for us is to reward them.

Stafford McDowall has been one of our most consistent players over the last couple of years and he doesn’t have bad games.. He’s got a passing, running and kicking threat. We have a responsibility to those young Scottish players to bring them through and the only way you can do that is to expose them every week and let our international players earn their spot.

“I must say since they’ve all come back in, the standard has gone through the roof. They’ve all been incubated in their own systems for the last four or five months but the standard has been high and everyone has been on their toes. Historically, opportunities have been limited but the standard has been really great.”

Meanwhile, Connacht will be without their World Cup stars, but Carolan – who spent 25 years with the province as a player and coach before moving to Glasgow in the summer of 2021 – doesn’t see that significantly reducing the size of the challenge his current team will face at the weekend.

“They have three of Ireland’s form players in Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen and Finlay Bealham, and they won’t be back this weekend because the IRFU have a three-week mandatory rest protocol, and if you saw Mack Hansen in the crowd last weekend then there’s no sign that he will return anytime soon!” he said.

“But in terms of numbers, they won’t be that affected in a massive way and they will have that cohesion from having a longer pre-season than us. They’ve new coaches in place so they’ve had time to bed in as well, so we are expecting a tough game against a side who will fight all the way.

“That’s been entrenched into their DNA since the start due to the adversity they’ve been through. They’ve always been deemed as the fourth province and the poor relation of Irish rugby, but they’ve fought against the odds over the last 20 years. They’ve found a way of being competitive, which is remarkable. They have good people, good systems in place and they recruit really well. They recruit people who really buy into the place because it can be bleak but they make it their home.”


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About David Barnes 3908 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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.

2 Comments

  1. Maybe its just me but it seems like the international players are loving being back with the club and playing at the top of their game in this environment whilst feeling a release from the pressure cooker of the Scotland camp.

    I guess none of the active players will comment on how things were on the inside of the camp. Looking forward to reading the memoirs and reflections of retiring players over the next few years.

    • Funnily enough I thought the exact same thing during Leinster game. Looked to play with more intensity n a smile on their faces. Really think there’s questions to be asked of the way that camps work and why a contract was blindly offered.

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