Stuart Hogg was not quite being restrained at Celtic Park in the hours before his final game for Glasgow in today’s Guinness PRO14 final, but “the brakes were on” after the departing full-back went “beserk” at training on Thursday.
Not that the Scotland and Lions star is literally going mad with the anticipation of ending his ten-year tenure with the club with a second title this evening, but that his training figures were off the scale, according to head coach Dave Rennie.
“We tried to put the brakes on him today, he went berserk yesterday at training, massive high speed numbers,” said Rennie. “He’s seen that the field here is a little bit shorter so he was trying some kicks from the opposition 22 line.
“Hoggy’s an excitement machine. He’s desperate to go out on a big note and all we need him to do is to play as well as he has in the last few weeks and hopefully that’ll be enough.”
Keeping a lid on the Glasgow full-back is not something that you really want to do anyway, added Rennie.
“Have I had a word? I’m constantly having a word with him! He’s excitable at the best of times, but it’s infectious.
“He is tough on himself. The biggest thing is that when Hoggy makes a mistake he beats himself up a bit. He understands the importance he has for us so he wants to perform well and there couldn’t be a better occasion for him.
“It would be brilliant for him (to win the final). But this is as much about the environment, the occasion, and the quality of the opposition too.
“They are a massive powerhouse in European rugby, they won the title last year and they’re going to be tough to roll. Nice that we’re at home and we’ve got plenty to play for as well as Hoggy leaving. I expect to see the boys front up.”
Rennie has named an unchanged starting team for the final, with the only change in the 23 that defeated Ulster in the semi-final the restoration of Tongan tight-head Suia Halanukonuka for D’Arcy Rae on the replacement bench.
The team toured Celtic Park yesterday and had their captain’s run – with not a few awestruck looks from some – and for the Kiwi Rennie there was an interesting comparison from his Super Rugby days.
“There’s a bit of South Africa about the place,” said Rennie, which while it was warm and sunny yesterday, is perhaps the first time the East End of Glasgow has been compared to Cape Town.
“Those are big, imposing stands are like walls close to the pitch, like Cape Town. It’s great that we will have a lot of fans supporting us in this big stadium, and we don’t see home ground or the crowd as pressure.
“It’s excitement, It is where we want to be, and we will use that as fuel. We are in a good spot.”
Ticket sales are now at 43,000 – an astonishing number considering the Warriors used to get less than 1500 some games at Firhill only 10 years ago and there’s some other final on in Glasgow today – with the record gate for the final of over 46,000 attainable with tickets available on the day.
The pitch is slightly smaller than Scotstoun, although oddly with bigger in-goal areas, but whatever the dimensions the Warriors won’t change the way they play, says Rennie.
“We’re not going to change and I don’t think Leinster will either,” he continued. “Our game is based a lot round decision-making and playing what is in front of us.
“As we found out in the game last month, there were two occasions when they went over thirty phases against us.
“It might be a bit of rain tomorrow and a bit greasy on top, so you might see a little bit more kicking.
“But they are very good at hanging onto the ball, prepared to go an inch at a time and to ask questions.
“We have to hunt well. It is a helluva lot easier to defend three or four phases and try and steal one rather than defend for thirty-odd.
“It is the two best sides in the competition. Both sides won both sides of the draw so it is a fitting final between two positive sides.
“We’re pretty much full-strength, and looking at Leinster, they are too. It should be a hell of an occasion.”
Glasgow (vs Leinster, Guinness PRO14 Grand Final, Celtic Park, ko 6.30 pm): Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray; Rob Harley, Callum Gibbins (capt), Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Oli Kebble, Suia Halanukonuka, Ryan Wilson, Tom Gordon, George Horne, Pete Horne, Huw Jones.
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadgh Furlong; Scott Fardy, James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Ander Porter, Ross Molony, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Ross Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin.
Ref: N Owens (WRU)