Sometimes when you think of professional sportsman you consider the glamour of games, the adulation of a crowd and the happiness that comes from doing something you love. However, Glasgow Warriors’ Player of the Year Chris Fusaro was more than happy to take some time off from cleaning Red Bull cans out of his car and planning darts back to Fife to tell us just how hard the work is in the run-in to the Playoffs.
“It has been a great season, but Saturday against Connacht presents us with a tough game,” The Flanker assures me. “People will talk about needing two points, but I’ll say it: we need that bonus point. There is still a chance we could overtake Munster and finish third and if we did that we would play Ospreys in the playoffs. That is better than playing Leinster.
“We definitely have the firepower to get that bonus point, too.
“If you have seen us in the past few weeks Alex Dunbar has come in and given us something different in attack. We all said during Christmas and Winter that our attack was…well it wasn’t amazing, but now it has come on.
“We have a nice blend”, Fusaro says, more to himself than to me. Shuffling in his seat he explains. “We have experience and we have that old cliché: youthful exuberance. We have Al [Kellock] who is a great leader and we have guys with ability. Now, I’ve never experienced anything like this run-in before, but last season we lost the close games, the tight games. We’re still always nervous, but we seem to be channelling it better.
“Look at Connacht coming up. I played last season when they put 30-odd points past us. They scrapped and we lost. Now, though, we are defending well and we know what to expect from them and almost want to do what they always do. We want to flood the breakdown and scrap and ruin. We also expect to do something with the ball.
“Whatever happens on Saturday we will get a tough semi in the playoffs. At Firhill we will go for it and, I’m not going to lie, we need the bonus point. You have to earn the right to play after 20 to 30 minutes.”
If it sounds like Fusaro is obtrusively issuing his intent here then you get some flavour for what the openside is like as a player. He is the type to have bloody knuckles rather than a manicured passing implement and may sometimes be the kind to build an empty house just to have a fight in. He is first and foremost a team player, though, and he has been duly recognised for this.
“I was given Player of the Year by the coaches, which was a huge honour, but I was also given Players’ Player of the Year when we had our players’ dinner on Monday. It was really emotional with some big, experienced guys moving on.”
Asked if he got emotional he interrupts with his trademark abrupt laugh before settling back down to explain that whilst having the respect of his peers is great, there is a job to be done in Glasgow.
Sure much has been made of Sean Lineen’s enforced move sideways and the fans and press have recently rallied behind him, but what was done two years ago is in the past and everyone still needs to get on with the necessary duties. Like Lineen himself the Warriors players have to take what they are given and proceed. The achievements of the past are great, but that and worrying about shake-ups do not win playoff semi-finals. Work does.
So if the hard work is underway, can those who played in the last playoff match give any advice?
“Truthfully, the experienced guys have not said much. When those types were away with the 6Nations the team were winning the big matches. We beat the Ospreys away for the first time, then.
“See, for many it is a new thing. We don’t know what we’re getting. We all have nothing to lose. Another thing, as well, is that the last time we were in the playoffs there were a few injuries and a lot of pulling through and it felt like the side fell over the line, just. Now they reckon we are in the best nick we have ever been in at the end of a season and are hoping to sprint over the line.
“This is a season where we have beating Leinster already. Irish teams seem to hold –maybe not fear –but a sense of dread. They are tough to play against and competition in certain areas seems to be bred into them. It is not that it is ignored, but referees appear to be used to it as if it is just accepted now. That sort of competition is why these teams do well in Europe.”
So this Irish side?
“We will do what we do in defence, flood the contact area and try and take out their scrum, which has been an area of strength this season.”
Sounds like it is all planned well in advance, then. Shame Sean is leaving. Worried about plans next year?
“Obviously there is a lot of competition for places next year. However, the hope with Gregor [Townsend] is that we will all get a clean slate. The way it worked with Sean [Lineen] this year was that if you were playing well you played and everyone got a chance. Hopefully it will be the same. However, we cannot lose our general focus and buy into this, now.
“We have this game and then, if we get to the playoffs, we may ease off and keep things low key in the build up to the semi.”
From the sounds of things, Chris Fusaro may be glad of the rest.