Glasgow Warriors head into their opening home match of the season tomorrow acutely aware that they are up against the opponents who represent what they aspire to on and off the field.
While tickets were still available yesterday, a sell-out crowd is expected at Scotstoun for the visit of Munster, which could be interpreted as explaining why no media access was offered to the home camp in the early part of the week, since there is no obvious need to ramp up interest.
Their staff insisted that there was no question of complacency, however, explaining that was merely down to a combination of Travel and rest day logistics and the arrival of a team that regularly fills its 26,000 Thomond Park home, is the best possible reminder that if Glasgow’s hopes of increasing the capacity at Scotstoun are ever fulfilled, they will have much more marketing work on their hands.
Meanwhile, as the playing squad seeks to demonstrate that it is capable of stepping up and competing with Europe’s best, aware of their reputation of being a team that can be bullied, they know these opponents hail from the province that transformed the way Celtic teams were viewed across the continent when going toe to toe with the top English and French teams a decade and more ago.
A decade may now have elapsed since Munster became the first Celtic team to be able to claim to be multiple European champions, but they have consistently shown their mettle in the pool stages, where their record compares starkly with that of Glasgow. That was exemplified last season when the Warriors reached the first round of pool matches with the last 100 per cent record in Europe, but failed to win any of their first Champions Cup five matches, whereas Munster timed their preparation perfectly, losing just one of their pool matches on their way to reaching their 13th semi-final.
Munster have also won four of these sides’ last five meetings and, having seen his team battle to another winning start to the season at Connacht last weekend, Warriors forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys acknowledged that there has been growing awareness of the need to address that which the players are relishing.
“We talked about that before last year and we managed to put in a pretty good performance. Over the last two times we’ve played them we’ve had a 50% record,” he observed.
“The boys like playing against them. They are always the benchmark of physicality. Unless you stand up front physically you’re not going to beat Munster.”
It is the sort of challenge they have to become more widely seen as being capable of winning, as he also accepted.
“Teams coming here will feel that their access into the game is through the forwards,” he said.“We’ve got to make sure we change that perception. Whether it’s style of play or not, we need to make sure that we are pretty ferocious and we are in a good spot every time we play. For us, we know that the perception can become the reality and we have to make sure that we are good in that area and really physical there. I thought we were pretty good at the weekend. The players have put a lot of work in so hopefully we’re going to see the fruits of that.”
With the leading Irish provinces still managing their squads at this time of year the timing of this visit represents an opportunity to gain an early advantage in the race for Pro14 play-off places and Humphreys said it was one they are keen to seize, saying:“If we win we go to the top of the table. In terms of relevance towards the end of the season it just puts you in a good position.”
However, there are also lessons to be learned from the way the Irish set themselves up for Europe, as exemplified by last season’s experience
“We saw that we need to be in the best place we can be come the European games and then in March,” he admitted. “We’re putting in groundwork now. All the stuff we have worked on with regards to the big games is exactly the same as for the Champions Cup and the play-offs in the PRO14. They are very similar types of games and we need to make sure we are in the best position to win them.”
Source : HeraldScotland