Glasgow Warriors didn’t mince words among each other after their Heineken Champions Cup debacle last week, and if head coach Dave Rennie doesn’t see a response “you might not see much of them from now on”.
The Warriors coach is conscious it’s a “desperate” time of year for many clubs including tonight’s visitors to Scotstoun in the Guinness PRO14, Ulster. The resurgent Irish province – now under former Glasgow and Scotland forwards coach Dan McFarland – like the Warriors, have three games to save their season after a European exit.
Rennie described the squad’s review of their performance at Allianz Park as “brutal”.
“We couldn’t hide away from that, what we put on the park was nowhere near good enough for the occasion and so I’d expect to see a response,” he said.
“There were seven teams that had a chance of qualifying with about a minute to go (in each of the Heineken quarter-finals) and then there was us.
“When it came down to it we didn’t work hard enough, especially defensively, for long enough. You just can’t get away with that.
“We had a number of guys who performed really well, with some guys who were well below par and they are probably fortunate to get another opportunity this week. If we don’t get a response from those individuals then you may not see much of them from now on.
“The good thing, we’re playing a good side this week, and we know we’re going to have to be a lot better.”
The Warriors will have Tommy Seymour back after his rib problem but Callum Gibbins was found have taken a concussion in the aftermath of the Saracens game, and Chris Fusaro will start and skipper the side as he has done in Gibbins and Ryan Wilson absences with injury this season.
Rennie feels that Seymour will bring out the best in Stuart Hogg, who was a little off on his return to action after six weeks out at Saracens.
“I thought he played pretty well – he attacked well – it was just his kicking, which is an area he is usually so good at,” said Rennie. “He wasn’t quite as sharp in that area as you would normally expect him to be.
“He showed up pretty well in the wide channels and was a handful with the ball in hand, but we just didn’t have enough for him – 38 percent (possession) isn’t enough against a side like that.”
More is needed to stretch Ulster and Glasgow still top their pool in the hunt for a home semi-final with three games remaining.
“A win is really important for Ulster, they have only one focus left, the same as us,” added the head coach. “We know what’s coming: we are going to have to be really resolute defensively, and accurate with accurate with the ball to stretch a really good defence.
“We’re in control of this. We just have to win the games.”
Taking a broader view, Glasgow have “been working to a plan” with recruitment to add “a little bit of steel” in the off-season.
“We have done contracting that we haven’t released (publicly) yet,” he said. “We’ve signed a lot of local boys, we’re bringing in a lot of good young kids who we think from a future point of view are going to be massive for Scotland and for us.
“We’re going to use some overseas, or ineligible players for Scotland to help us get through times like the Six Nations and World Cup and so on.”
There will be change to the coaching group as well with Mike Blair going to Scotland permanently and a successor to forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys – bound for the Wales national set-up – “very advanced”, added Rennie.
“Mike is an excellent young coach, he has plenty of energy and a really good knowledge of the game. It’s been great having him here but this is great opportunity for him.”
Glasgow team: Stuart Hogg; Niko Matawalu, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, Tommy Syemour; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Rob Harley, Jonny Gray; Adam Ashe, Chris Fusaro (capt), Matt Fagerson. Replacements: Grant Stewart, Jamie Bhatti, Siua Halanukonuka, Scott Cummings, Tevita Tameilau, George Horne, Peter Horne, Robbie Nairn.