GREAT to watch and great to play against. Glasgow Warriors’ dismal European Champions Cup record points to a lack of resilience which has been brutally exposed when up against the top teams in the continent firing on all cylinders.
Up until last year, they had never progressed beyond the group stage, and then when they finally cleared that hurdle they were blown away by Saracens in the quarter-finals. When on form, and their opponents slightly off colour, the Warriors could be deadly – but far too often they have been bullied out of games.
The Scotstoun outfit will once again try to shed their European lightweight status when they get the 2017-18 campaign under way against English Champions Exeter Chiefs next Saturday. They then take on Leinster the following weekend, and also have Vern Cotter’s free-spending Montpellier in a devilishly tricky pool.
All told, it is a daunting challenge, but scrum-half Henry Pyrgos believes that the side are ready to take their European form to the next level.
Having started the current league campaign with six wins from six matches, the team have shown a level of consistency unmatched anywhere else in Europe’s top leagues – and although they have only really hit their straps once so far in the campaign, in their 37-10 demolition of Munster, Pyrgos believes that the team’s ability to grind out results could be crucial to their Champions Cup crusade.
“I think we have had a lot of that [hanging in] this season. The Munster game was a really good performance but in the other games we haven’t put in that full 80-minutes, and so we’re still pushing each other to get there,” he said.
“But on the flip side you learn in games like that how to stay in it, how to keep it tight when things aren’t necessarily coming off, and how to keep your composure. That gives us confidence. We’re fit and we know how to win. There are areas we can get better and improve on, but we have become a team, whoever plays, that is always hard to beat and we take a lot of confidence from that.’
“It’s great to be top of our [Guinness PRO14] pool, and to have built up a few wins, but to be honest it doesn’t count for much now. We’re looking ahead to an exciting [European] competition and there’s no doubt that winning regularly gives you confidence, and breeds confidence through the squad.
“I don’t think it’s rocket science. The groups are extremely tough and you simply have to turn up every week and play at a very high standard. We know, when we look back, that we’ve done that really well on some occasions to pull off some great wins, but in the seasons where we didn’t qualify we didn’t manage to back it up through six games.”
The team’s preparation for their trip to Sandy Park to take on the Chiefs is not going to be ideal given that they only have a six day turnaround after spending the best part of two days getting back home from playing (and defeating) the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday night – but Pyrgos says that the team will not allow that crazy scheduling to be an excuse.
“We’re really chuffed [with Friday night’s result]. It’s not an easy thing to do to travel to South Africa for the first time and win. We know we could have been better but to get the win at the end against a team that has been going well and beating some good sides out here was really positive,” said the 28-year-old, who scored the third of his teams four tries on Friday night.
“As soon as the bodies recover from the travel back from South Africa I know boys will be wanting to get into other at training. There is a huge competitiveness in our squad, with a lot of guys playing for positions, and as much as that has been building through the season I think it will go up a notch with the European games now here,” he explained.