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Warriors win breeds new belief for Scotland

Gregor Townsend - pic © Al Ross
Gregor Townsend - pic © Al Ross

As the flag-waving, foot-stomping, champagne-soaking pandemonium engulfed the Kingspan Stadium at the conclusion of Saturday’s PRO12 final, it was the briefest of poignant exchanges that caught the eye.

On the pitch, Glasgow Warriors revelled in the sweet triumph that had been theirs since Finn Russell swooped between two Munster defenders to score the team’s fourth try early in the second half – a title that even the most churlish observer, the most dyed-in-the-wool Munster fanatic would not begrudge them.

In the stands, one glassy-eyed senior SRU official paused amid the raptures, turned to a younger companion, grasped him by the shoulders and intoned that this journey from penniless also-rans to envied champions began before his birth.

The euphoric aftermath was in many ways a truly odd blend. Unique, of course. Pleasant, most definitely. Yet accompanying the glory was a thoroughly novel, almost alien feel to it all.

Here, Scotland, it seemed to say. This is what winning looks like.

The implications of Glasgow’s victory off the field, away from the elite game, ought to be significant.

The title is gold-dust for the SRU’s marketing division – an opportunity to drive and attract new interest in grassroots rugby, engage with more people, sell more tickets and strengthen the Scottish game. To feed that organic flow should not demand remarkable PR-savvy.

It isn’t hard to envisage, for instance, a Scotland star of the 2025 Six Nations Championship reminiscing in the media about the inspiration provided by Glasgow’s champion vintage.

Most curious, and arguably most exciting, however, is the impact silverware will have on a group of players gearing up for the sport’s pinnacle – a tournament, remember, their chief executive has tasked them with winning – in a matter of months.

When Tommy Seymour, one of the luminaries of the Warriors’ season, was asked during the Six Nations if Scotland were plagued by a mental fragility, his eyes bulged and an awkward beat passed where no-one in the cramped hospitality box was sure whether the winger might vault the table and throttle the journalist who posed the query.

Perhaps a raw nerve was aggravated. Perhaps this squad, many green in years and caps, are irked at being stamped so readily with the same brittle label as their predecessors.

Those press conferences tended to adopt a sheepish air: the same blunt questions asked; the same perturbed responses issued; the same scorelines obtained.

Few doubt the players’ potential; many question their temperament when the chips are down and the try-line beckons.

Guided by Gregor Townsend, however, Glasgow have learned how to win in testing circumstances. They can do so with grunt and brawn, and have done on several occasions this season in a Scotstoun deluge. They have the precision, belief and gumption to snatch late victories in big matches, retaining a disciplined faith in their systems.

On Saturday, they didn’t merely scrape over the line, but systematically, ruthlessly dismantled Munster with their signature high-tempo style. It was utterly assured, fearless, and mighty impressive fare.

And it is a dearth of this cerebral resilience, executing under pressure, staying error-free at crucial times, as much as skill or talent that has hurt most recent Scottish teams.

The trophy marks a seminal point in Glasgow’s development as champagne-drenched but pride-laden totem Al Kellock bids farewell together with a band of departing favourites who have all played significant roles in the club’s success.

But it may also prove a defining step in Scotland’s maturing on the international stage.

The culture of victory, of achieving results in spite of poor performances, of playing with freedom and at ease under the added mental burden of being labelled favourites appears endlessly in today’s coaching soundbites.

Vern Cotter will name his extended Rugby World Cup squad in two days, and for the first time, he has plenty winners to pick from.

5 Responses

  1. Strange …. I was sure the game I went to was on Saturday! Must have lost a day somewhere. Apart from that, it’s a really good article.

  2. I believe that there has been a push to bring more youngsters into rugby. I know that in Ayrshire, there are more schools playing the sport now. Not sure what the results have been nationwide. Perhaps an update on the situation SRU?
    You are right though. It’s a great opportunity for the marketeers. I love the ‘Fiji Weegie’ slogan, and signing the new 20 st. Fijian for next year is a good step. Let’s see if they make trhe most of the opportunity.

  3. Ayrshire always produced great schools rugby players, you may never have heard of them as often the selection process stifled them out (12 games before the scottish trial when the Edinburgh Pivate schools played only one – the final trial) however that is not my point.

    Retaining them in the clubs has been the big problem and they always go to cities for Further Education and often are just lost to the game as that move breaks their ties.

    Perhaps one for the strategists to consider.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion