Dave Rennie stirred up the bad blood between Glasgow Warriors and Saracens even further by accusing the former European champions of cynically trying to reverse decisions against them by starting “push and shove” fights.
The Warriors head coach, who usually keeps a wry sense of perspective, went full barrels on the twice-European champions’ tactics ahead of this week’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final, effectively blaming them for the bad-tempered nature of the matches between the clubs in five previous meetings over the last three seasons.
“We don’t talk about the niggle (as a club) but we’ve got to be smart around that sort of thing,” said the New Zealander.
“Often if (Saracens) make an error it’s followed by a lot of push and shove from them to maybe bring the referee in to change a decision. We can’t afford to get sucked into that sort of stuff.
“Do I think it’s a deliberate ploy? Absolutely. I’ve seen them do it against every other side they play.
“We saw it out here (in the teams’ meeting at Scotstoun in October). We had a decision went our way and then a bit of push and shove followed. Fraser Brown got penalised and they got three points out of it.
“It’s clearly a ploy.”
Saturday’s referee is Nigel Owens, perhaps the most experienced whistler in the game, and Rennie said they were happy that the Welshman would deal with any issues.
“I think Nigel’s pretty smart, he won’t get sucked into that,” continued the head coach. “He’s an experienced ref, so we’re not even sending any clips in about Saracens.
“He’s been around a long time… he’s good enough, hopefully, to make the right decisions at the right time and we’ll trust his judgement.”
After two “brutal” encounters in the pool stages, Rennie expects the intensity to be ramped up even further in the quarter-final.
“This game will be more intense than we’ve played this year,” he said. “That’s what happens in finals footie, there’s so much on the line. We’re steeling ourselves for a brutal kind of game.”
Saracens have had a recent happen of coming on strong late in games and that was certainly true of the teams’ last meeting in January, when they pulled away in the final ten minutes to win 38-19.
“We’re going to have to be at our best for 80 minutes,” he said. “Discipline needs to be solid. We saw Harlequins dominate the game with Saracens at the weekend but in the second half the penalty count went hugely in Saracens’ favour.
“With that they can pin you in the corner and they just keep coming. Discipline and accuracy will be really important.
Glasgow will make late decisions on Scotland internationals Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, with it expected that Hogg – out since the Ireland game during the 6 Nations with a shoulder injury – will make the game but Seymour – a try scorer in the group stage at Allianz Park – is in some doubt.
“We’re not worried about Tommy’s ability to slot in, but it’s a massive game for us and we don’t want to be waiting until the 11th hour to make a decision,” said Rennie.
“Hoggy has ticked all the boxes medically. He did contact last week, he’s just got to get a bit more footy into him.
“He’s pretty keen to play, he said he wants to get to 25 per cent of the games that I’ve coached here before he leaves, and to do that he’ll probably need to play every game!
“He’s desperate to play and would have loved to get out last week, but we weren’t going to push it.”
George Horne is available after some time out with a shoulder injury while big brother Pete has recovered from the knee knock he took in Saturday’s PRO14 game against Cheetahs.
Sam Johnson, Jonny Gray and Ali Price, rested last week after their 6 Nations campaign, will all return to duty.