Warriors take heart from Scotstoun factor ahead of Scarlets showdown

Gray, Jones, Horne and Johnson all fit to face champions in PRO14 semi-final

Glasgow back Peter Horne with head coach Dave Rennie.
Glasgow back Peter Horne with head coach Dave Rennie. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

GLASGOW may have been curiously inconsistent at times this season, but as they prepare to welcome Scarlets to town for Friday night’s PRO14 semi-final they can take heart from one potentially decisive factor: their home record in the league has been close to impeccable.

Ten games at Scotstoun have produced ten victories, with the total match points scored being a mightily impressive, and intimidating, Warriors 49 points, The Rest 0.

Bonus points are irrelevant in the knockout stages, of course, and Scarlets, having won at Leinster in last year’s semi-final en route to becoming champions, will travel north with a certain confidence of their own. Nonetheless, that home record will serve, at the very least, to bolster the self-belief of Dave Rennie’s squad as they bid to qualify for their third final in five years.

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“There’s no doubt that statistically we’ve been really strong at home in this comp,” the head coach said. “We’ve had 10 games here for 10 wins and nine bonus points – 49 out of 50 – and we haven’t conceded anything here. No team has left with a bonus of any description.

“That’s a hell of a record. It gives us confidence, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. We know Scarlets are a quality side, defending champions, and I’d imagine they’ll be pretty highly motivated. I think it will make for a really high quality encounter. They have a positive mindset and so have we.”

Squad at its strongest

The Warriors’ positive mindset has been helped considerably by the virtual disappearance of their injury list. Jonny Gray, Huw Jones, Peter Horne and Sam Johnson were all declared doubtful a couple of weeks ago, but have since been cleared to play.  What is more, having had a couple of weeks since their last game to prepare his squad for Friday, Rennie is convinced that they are in excellent condition.

“All these guys are available,” he said of the previously injured players. “Jonny’s good – he was the one with the most concern.

“We gave the boys a pretty tough first week. We gave the boys three days off the second week and got a good head start on the Thursday, Friday knowing it was going to be Scarlets. This week is about fine-tuning and making sure we have a full tank for the weekend.

“We are as fit as. The boys are in good nick. We’re excited. It’s where we want to be, at home in a semi-final. It’s what we talked about 11 months ago, but you start from scratch again from now.

“In big play-off games like this you need every player to front, and every player to fire. The mindset has been great. We’re rapt to still be in the race. There are 10 teams who are probably drinking a fair bit of alcohol this week so yeah, the heads are good and the bodies are good. We have to put that on the park at the weekend.

“You have to be excited by it rather than fear the outcome. We’ve made sure we have had a lot of fun over the last few weeks. We’ve worked hard, and if we go in clear over what are their threats and our opportunities and just go and play and enjoy the occasion and let the scoreboard look after itself.”

… or should I go?

Rennie will name his team on Thursday, with one of the most fascinating issues being who he selects at scrum-half. On form it should be George Horne, but Ali Price has more experience of playing alongside Finn Russell, while Henry Pyrgos has more experience altogether than either of those two. Three into two won’t go, which is why, whoever is picked to start and be on the bench, speculation will continue about a move for one of the three to Edinburgh, who have just lost Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. That speculation has not exactly been discouraged by Richard Cockerill, but Rennie suggested the Edinburgh coach should do things through the proper channels.

“He’d be better talking to us rather than the media. We haven’t heard anything. They’re all contracted, signed with us. The big thing is that they all want to be here.

“They’re signed to our contract. I’m sure that if some player wanted to move on to get opportunities, which has happened a lot between the two sides in the past, then it could be there, but there has been no talk about it.”

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Finn Russell aims to finish his Glasgow Warriors era in style

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.