Glasgow Warriors coach Gregor Townsend bullish over final prospects

Glasgow Warriors' head coach Gregor Townsend
Glasgow Warriors' head coach Gregor Townsend

Glasgow Warriors Coach Gregor Townsend was both candid and bullish as he looked forward to the climax of his club’s season – the clash with Munster on Saturday evening in Belfast in the Guinness Pro12 Final.

“We weren’t ready for the Final a year ago and I include myself in that. We’re certainly ready this time,” said Townsend.

“We will have to work hard to create opportunities and we have to get our fundamentals right no matter which side you’re playing.

“The way the team came back to win last week against Ulster underlined our work ethic and the belief the players have in each other. We expect to see more of that on display in Belfast.”

Gregor’s team selection for the game in Belfast has surprised many with Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe – in his final appearance for the ‘Warriors’ – starting in place of Niko Matawalu.

Josh Strauss will lead the side with Kellock on the bench whilst Rob Harley returns to the starting XV for the first time since the defeat to Ospreys at the start of May.

The coach outlined his thinking behind some of his choices.

“Rob Harley will be fresh and that was a big factor in his selection. We’ve seen in the last two semi-finals how attritional both have been,” he said.

“He’s been very consistent for us for most of the season and was always one of the first names on the team-sheet. We believe that – playing against Munster – he will be the perfect foil for what we expect Munster to do.

“Al Kellock’s on the bench – it was a big selection decision. His impact coming on at the end of the game will help us win. It will be his final game. He was the first one I spoke to on Tuesday morning,” he added.

“He was excellent as you would expect and will be very motivated to get on the field.

“Leone Nakarawa was outstanding in the closing stages last week. He’s excellent at set-pieces and very fit and compliments Jonny Gray. Jonny brings so much – he’s very good in contact and has become more and more an effective ball carrier.”

Townsend spoke of his admiration for his side’s opponents.

“Munster are a quality side as you would expect of any team in a Final or Semi-Final. They will have the same game plan as they always do, based on winning the line-out,” he said.

“They will be direct and uncompromising, balanced with dangerous attackers in their back line. They have gone back to their traditional way of playing that they did two or three years ago and are very effective at their game, having only lost once since New Year’s Day.”

Glasgow Warriors of course defeated Munster at the penultimate stage of this competition last year at Scotstoun – as the coach recalled.

There was so much emotion after last year’s semi-final. It was such a great night against Munster to get into our first Final. We’ve put all that to one side this week. We know the opposition well, we know what our game plan will be,” he said.

“I’m very confident we’ll see a much more focused team.”

Gregor was also keen to emphasise the importance of the travelling support his side will have backing them.

“Our supporters have got behind the team in large numbers home and away all season and we’re looking forward to playing in front of them one final time at the Kingspan Stadium.”