At the weekend I spent a lot of time with a good friend of mine who is almost exclusively obsessed with his image. He likes to control what people see in him.
For rugby teams this can also be true. Some teams thrive on the perpetuation of a team ethos; a mission statement, almost. It is what endears and creates long term fans. It is what attracts players to play a brand of rugby. It is what makes a team a commodity.
Look at Leicester and Munster with their rumbling, snarling packs that chew up territory. Look at Leinster’s sweeping and explosive play. Look at Ospreys attempts at total rugby and even look at Edinburgh’s near religious adherence to the principle of “let’s chuck it about a bit”.
On Scotland’s West coast this is no different.
Glasgow Warriors enjoy being seen as Warriors because the name inspires images of bloodied heroes that have been through Hell to meet their ends. Glasgow love being the gritty scrappers of European rugby.
Judging by the last few season’s results, Glasgow have won games against opposition through sheer bloody mindedness and disregard for their bodies. Look at the away fixture in Toulouse in 2009: a true underdog’s performance. Even when they beat Gloucester the following season 33 to 11 it was more from pressure and Parks 23 points than any rugby extravaganza.
When they went to the Magners play-offs it was a great thing for the club and for Scottish rugby. However, despite winning 11 and only losing 5 regular season games they never could be said to have played consistently silky and exciting rugby. Their biggest winning margin came against a weakened Leinster side already looking to the play-offs. Most wins were within a score or two (bearing in mind this was the season ‘Punt It’ Parks was a 6N saviour).
I am in no way belittling Glasgow’s achievement there. They deserved to get to the play-offs and they were inspiring to watch, at times. The issue is that the personnel Glasgow and Lineen tend to opt for are the kind of guys that are used to having their backs against the wall.
When they took a risk on the Hurricanes’ Super 14 top try-scorer, Lome Fa’atau, in 2007 it backfired as he failed to adapt to the wet west coast conditions. This ‘risk’, though, was backed up at the time by the signing of veteran defensive centre Daryl Gibson. This kind of safety shot is a regular one for the Warriors.
Recent players like Andy Newman, Scott Barrow, Tim Barker, Steve Swindall, Donny Macfadyen, Kevin Tkachuk and Dan Turner were all good team players but they didn’t have anything that could win a game with brilliance. They were battlers.
Glasgow have signed some new guys, but will they be Warriors or something different?
Troy Nathan has played with Connacht so knows about slogging your way to narrow wins. I hope he is capable of a more complex game. If Glasgow are to progress and do something different then a centre-come-10 who can control an inventive backline is a must.
By the same token it is necessary to wait and see what happens with Tom Seymour. I’ll admit that even my Ulster contacts can tell me very little about him, but it would have been nice (if he is the runner I believe he is) to have seen him operate on the opposite wing from Evans. Alas, Max is off to France.
As for Cusack, Wight and Pitman it will be a case of doing what we know they can do. No doubt Shade Munro is already looking for another flanker/lock who can fit into the lineout but be versatile when Gray and Kellock are back. In the perfect world he would also be fast.
So as we anticipate a new season with a depleted Warriors looking to scrape some wins in the opening Pro12 games maybe, just maybe, the script could be thrown away. I would love to see the youngsters throw caution to the wind and try to score innovative tries. Glasgow have already finished second bottom of the league. What’s the worst that could happen?
Oh… Lineen could risk his job?
Perhaps we will be holding out for some close ones and one Heineken Cup win after all, then.
A kilted kiwi never changes it’s spots, I would assume…