A functioning setpiece – in attack and defence – will be the key to Glasgow’s hopes of an upset over Saracens on Sunday, believes Fraser Brown.
The Scotland hooker is back for the Warriors, who take on the twice Heineken Champions’ Cup winner and English champions for the first time since the quarter-final 18 months ago at Allianz Park, when Sarries won comfortably on their way to their second European title.
“I remember it pretty well, it was pretty physical,” said Brown. “But I think we probably got our build up a little bit wrong, we focused a bit too much on them and not ourselves.
“We always do our due diligence on teams, scouting them properly and getting good analysis but it’s really important this week that we focus on ourselves, our setpiece, our defence and how we can unlock the Sarries defence with our attack.
“The setpiece will be a big battleground, they’ve got a strong lineout and a strong lineout drive defensively from our point of view but it’s important to make sure our scrum and lineout function properly and give us the ball to allow us to move them around, keep possession and play in their areas of the pitch.”
Last year Glasgow were undone in Europe by being unable to neuter the bigger packs they faced in their pool, Leinster, Exeter and Montpellier, especially defending the lineout drive. That area has improved considerably this season, but this week is the real acid test.
“We’ve made pretty good strides from where we were last year both attack and defence,” said Brown. “We’ve had a big focus on training through the week to push up standards, to make sure we’re really efficient so we’re operating with a tiny margin of error, and that’s where we want to be. “Defensively it’s not just stopping the drive it’s the defensive lineout and putting pressure on there, (Ryan) Wilson, Jonny (Gray), Bob Harley put in a lot of work there and we’ve got one of the top lineout defences in the league at the minute so that’s an area we’ll look to take on.”
With four second rows injured at present – Brian Alainu’uese is still with the club although reports from France have him signing for Toulon – Harley is pressed into service there but that allows Dave Rennie to play both co-captains Wilson and Callum Gibbins as well as Matt Fagerson in the back row.
Ali Price is preferred at scrum-half to George Horne, while the Scotland midfield duo of Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones is retained. A family bereavement means Tommy Seymour is absent and Lee Jones will start on the wing.
Upfront, new signing Petrus du Plessis in on the bench against his old club, with D’Arcy Rae starting a tight-head.
Yesterday’s dreadful weather forced the Warriors indoors to Toryglen rather than the scheduled session on the Scotstoun pitch.
Glasgow have a strong home record against English opposition in this event, suffering only one defeat – against Northampton in 2015 – in their last nine games against Premiership teams.
Glasgow Warriors (vs Saracens, Heineken Champions Cup, Scotstoun Stadium, Sunday kick off 3.15pm – live on BT Sport 2) Ruaridh Jackson; Lee Jones, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, D’Arcy Rae; Rob Harley, Jonny Gray; Ryan Wilson, Callum Gibbins, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Alex Allan, Petrus du Plessis, Greg Peterson, Chris Fusaro, George Horne, Pete Horne, Rory Hughes.