Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Champions Cup: Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors

European Rugby Champions Cup
European Rugby Champions Cup - pic © EPCR/Inpho used with permission

Glasgow are flying high in the Pro14 but now attention turns to the area where success has been limited in recent years: Europe.

Last season, they doggedly made it into the knockout stages for the first time only to be clinically dismantled by eventual winners Saracens in the quarter finals. Two dispiriting losses to Munster overshadowed the amazing wins over Racing 92 that saw Finn Russell emerge onto the world stage (Dan who?), and those pesky Saracens ensured that Townsend’s final tilt at a target that has long eluded Scottish clubs ended with a bit of a whimper.

This year they face another tough group – since the “poopy cup” restructure from the old Heineken Cup there is not really any other kind – including Premiership champions Exeter, Vern Cotter’s Montpellier and 3 time winners Leinster.

This is the sort of thing Dave Rennie was brought in for. Taking a reasonably well-performing side and getting them to mount a truly credible challenge in Europe must be his main aim – though another PRO14 title would, of course, be nice. If Toony broke the glass ceiling, Rennie needs to get them climbing through it and dancing on the roof more regularly.

Glasgow have won just two of their 19 games away to Premiership opposition in Europe, but they are arguably on an upward trend with the most recent of those being the trouncing of Richard Cockerill’s former Leicester side (he was out of the door by that point) at Welford Road. They also have a winning record against the Chiefs, beating them twice in 2013/14.

Rennie has plenty to work on though. A high defensive workrate is still the key to their success with both of the competition’s top tacklers last season Warriors players (Johnny Gray and Ryan Wilson) and that will need to be maintained against more determined opposition than they have faced so far.

A bonus perhaps will be that last season teams like Saracens and Munster sometimes looked like they had Glasgow figured out, and a change of coaching approach in attack and defence might just restore them a bit of mystery. Plus, of course, there is Finn and there is once again Niko – no-one figures them out!

Stuart Hogg with the trophy
Will Stuart Hogg help Glasgow to the latter stages of Europe once he returns from injury? – pic © EPCR/Inpho used with permission

Glasgow have misfired quite badly in the set-piece despite the six wins and that will be an area causing Rennie and Jonathan Humphries sleepless nights; Exeter didn’t win the Premiership title with a dodgy scrum and they are a far more complete side than the one Glasgow beat in the past.

Rennie has opted for the young props that have played the bulk of the season so far but they will face a hefty front row group boasted by the Chiefs including Welsh international Tomas Francis on the bench. No sign of Moray Low. Fraser Brown has recovered from the head knock he took last week and will need a big step up in performance from the one against the Cheetahs.

In the back row, Adam Ashe is chosen at Number 8 and this will be a great chance for him to lay down an international marker, while Callum Gibbins who has made himself a WarriorNation favourite after just 6 games will bring his unknown quantities to the Chiefs defence with the usual force.

There is also a familiar face on the bench for the Chiefs – Scots qualified Ollie Atkins (thanks Gav).

Out back the Chiefs are without England and British Lions winger Jack Nowell, who sustained a facial fracture in last weekend’s home game with Newcastle Falcons but they still boast plenty of quality in Lachie Turner and Henry Slade. Rennie on the other hand has a backline who all have Scotland caps (some more than others) and despite Rory Hughes absence following shoulder surgery, can call on Scotland’s best wing in Tommy Seymour and Scotland’s form winger in Lee Jones. At fullback, the Ruinaissance continues with Ruaridh Jackson making life difficult for the imminent return of Stuart Hogg.

The Warrior Nation now travel in numbers to support their team and the noise they make and the results on the pitch so far this season should mean they will be taken seriously by the opposition, and Glasgow would do well to return the favour against a team not packed with stars that might seem beatable on paper by a team stacked with caps, even with some big names yet to appear.

The potential of a backline containing Russell, Huw Jones, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg being unleashed on faster tracks in the spring is as exciting for Glasgow fans as it is for Scotland fans, but they need to make sure the groundwork for a serious tilt at the knockout stages is laid now – starting this weekend.

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White; 1 Ben Moon, 2 Jack Yeandle (Capt), 3 Harry Williams, 4 Mitch Lees, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Don Armand, 7 Julian Salvi, 8 Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Tom Hendrickson, 23 James Short.

Glasgow Warriors: 15. Ruaridh Jackson, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Nick Grigg, 12. Peter Horne, 11. Lee Jones, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price; 1. Jamie Bhatti, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Tim Swinson, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Ryan Wilson (Capt), 7. Callum Gibbins, 8. Adam Ashe

Replacements: 16. George Turner, 17. Alex Allan, 18. D’Arcy Rae, 19. Scott Cummings, 20. Rob Harley, 21. Henry Pyrgos, 22. Sam Johnson, 23. Niko Matawalu

Unavailable players: Brian Alainu’uese (knee), Alex Dunbar (knee), Chris Fusaro (head), Stuart Hogg (shoulder), Rory Hughes (shoulder), Oli Kebble (foot), Paddy Kelly (ankle), Ratu Tagive (achilles), Richie Vernon (achillies) and Samuela Vunisa (knee).

Saturday, 14 October, Kick-off: 19:45, Sandy Park (live on BT Sport).

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (Fra)

47 Responses

  1. No Sarto a little bit of a surprise but Jones has been on good form for quite some time and did well in Europe last year.

    Looking forward to it!

    1. It’s clearly they will be playing a territory game here and aiming to keep exeter pinned in their half through turnovers . Seymour and Jones are both good at their defensive positioning and kicking and Russell , Horne and Jackson all good quality field kickers. Defense will be looking for alot of turnovers with Brown over Turner, Swinson and Gibbins and mobile props. Expect them to avoid scrums as much as possible (Obviously).

      My one Concern , Besides the usual scrum is their is not really any power runners in that backline to punch holes in. Lots of Speed so hopefully as defenses tire Seymour and Matawalu will pick apart those gaps.

      So Basically expect Glasgow to try play a territory game and keep the score close for 60-70 mins while trying some fancy moves with all their ball players, then on 60-70 mins trust their fitness and bench to add enough speed to take the win.

    2. According to the BT sport commentators , Glasgow are the only un-beated side in the Competition.

      1. Only unbeaten side in the 3 main leagues, let’s hope we can still say that tomorrow!

        Shows whilst we haven’t hit top gear yet, it is no mean feat to win 6 from 6 in any league.

        As an aside, watching Tasman game and Finlay Christie looks to have a sharp pass and looks decent at scrum half. Anyone know whether he is good enough for Scotland, seems to me we might need another scrum half option soon.

  2. Personally very much looking forward to seeing Scottish talent so close to home for a change. My first live rugby match since Twickenham in the Six Nations so the omens are not good, particularly when reading above about Fraser Brown!
    Come on Scotland (err, I mean, Glasgow)!

  3. Glasgow team/ bench selection makes sense, given injuries – but Edinburgh? The only outfield players on the bench are two specialist wingers – what happens if Tovey or one of the centres takes a hit?

  4. I worry for our scrum, I really think it has the potential to be minced utterly but Rennie knows what he’s doing so I’m happy to keep the faith.

  5. Yes the scrum is the major concern, but if we get anywhere near parity we can win. Rennie says he thinks we’ve only hit 60% so far and I’d agree with him. The ferocity and more importantly accuracy was always raised in europe last year so let’s hope that continues tonight. Someone is due a roasting from us and hopefully it’s Exeter though they’re a very very good team. Fingers crossed for a great start to the campaign and the all important momentum on top of an away win. I can’t see many of those in this group.

    No Watson in the squad for Edinburgh is odd. Is he injured? At least this is an area of relative strength and Jamie Ritchie has been playing well.

    Roll on tonight!

  6. Any shady livestream going for tonights game ? , sucks the game is on BT Sport and not sure which pub is going to play rugby over football.

    1. In Glasgow? Crafty Pig is the Warriors supporters pub and a great place to watch the game. Absolutely packed for Leicester away last year.

  7. The pun on Jacksons’ name…..

    *shakes head in disbelief*

    This game has the potential to be the tie of the round. Glasgow will have to work incredibly hard against a side that tops the ball retention stats in the Aviva.

    Good luck boys!

  8. Exeter would get rugby stopped. Impressive gym usage but zero finnesse. I hope we put 30 on them in the return fixture.

  9. Definitely lost it in the pack (particularly after the departure of Brown or was that just a coincidence?) – though it wasn’t a sublime display from Russell. Good but not at his best. It’s the first time I’ve seen Exeter play at length (ie other than highlights) and it was a pity to see them resort to what’s best described as 10 man rugby, exemplified by that lump of lard Waldrom who came on in the last what 15? Would he have lasted 20? He’s a good argument for returning to the days of replacements.

    1. Tough game to watch. Very close and we played some good rugby. Missed a ball carrier in back row in the Strauss mode. Also Brown a big loss when he went off although turner did well in the loose.

      Not many teams go to Sandy Park and stop them getting a try BP never mind running them so close. Going to be a tough group. Jonny Gray was immense until he ran out of gas.

    2. Bold statement to make when you don’t watch them. I’ve watched almost every televised match for the past two seasons. They are exceptionally well organised and play first class backs rugby when it is sensible to do so. That lump of lard was making his first appearance just back from a lengthy injury and was the leagues top try scorer two of the last three seasons. Exeter are well capable of beating Glasgow at their own Game but Glasgow aren’t capable of beating Exeter in that tight forward dominated game. Good tactics to go with the game plan that would win, no? Steenson doesn’t usually get to make that number of breaks, Glasgow were loose and I was shocked when they dominated the scrum but Brown going off ended that. Glasgow should win at home.

  10. Very interesting to consider a different outcome if Hogg, Sarto, H.Jones, Dunbar Masga had been fit. Exeter played a clever game (when you’re playing Glasgow)- 10 man rugby, loads of line-outs ,scrums, ferocious at the breakdown & very physical.

    Main Exeter aim was to play in Glasgow’s 22.

    Still without all the mentioned absentees Glasgow were never out of the game (until the last 3 mins) wonder if the decision not to take the penalty / LBP will matter.

    I think Cornell DuPreez suits Glasgow more than he suits Edinburgh & would add beef / ball carrying option

  11. Listened to the BBC radio coverage. Commentator was so pro Exeter it was painful. Ten man rugby against a Glasgow team still making too many handling and kicking errors. And yet another ref who willfully ignores blatant cheating around the edges of the rucks by Exeter’s forwards. Winning away is going to be nigh on impossible in this group so winning bonus points at home are essential. Ashe is a player with a good skill set but he’s simply not big enough to play 8 against the power teams.

  12. Couple of the guys struggled with their comparative lack of “beef” (in my opinion). Dunbar is a big big miss for his work @ the breakdown & his physicality.

  13. Mistakes again very frustrating to watch but symptomatic of the way we play. What lost that game was the penalty count in Exeter’s favour – 12 given up by Glasgow, only 5 by Exeter, and give their prowess in lineout drives and general brutality in the 22 they score tries.

    Some comments about the ref above but I’d have to watch the game back again to decide if he was really bad. Offside seemed to be enforced loosely but that needs to be called by touch judges. Exeter not committing to rucks was clever, cutting down space out wide so our backs couldn’t make an impact. We needed a massive back row, centre or winger to combat that, sucking in defenders, but sadly didn’t have that person available.

    Need to start upping the quality soon or this campaign is over after 2 games. Leinster with a very impressive win against Montpellier is worrying.

  14. An enjoyable game to watch, but the dewy conditions led to a lot of handling errors from Glasgow. I felt we deserved a losing bonus point out of that but the referee decided to cut short the advantage on the last play meaning no chance to try and slot the penalty over.

    Finn had one of “those” games, but I wouldn’t change him for anything, sometimes he’s majestic, sometimes he makes you watch from behind a cushion. Losing Brown early was a blow, but Turner did well and has a good turn of pace too.

    I’m not sure that Jonny Gray is quite up to speed yet, and Tommy looks a bit undercooked as well. I also think that Rae needs to be considered for starting TH – he looks to be a better scrummager than Fagerson, is handy in the loose, and doesn’t look to start a brawl after every scrum!

  15. I think we were beaten by a better side on the day. We made mistakes and they finished them. We were frequently in phases of play behind the gain line. They pushed us back every play, bit like we did with Munster.

    On the positive, some great lines and passes in mid field and everyone got involved. Good defense at times and we have beaten sides that dominate rolling mauls in the past , we did ok, could do better.

    The ref was what he was , he made mistakes both ways, though I felt the Swinson knock on leading to their 1st (I think) try was pivotal. If that had gone the other way and we nicked a score , a different game I think. We were infringing at the sides as well.

    Finn was under pressure and I thought we were going to get that last minute drop goal, close, but no cigar. Jackson showed his experience and I would like to see Hogg come back, on the bench. Great to see Glasgow having a second option at fullback. That will bring confidence. I look forward to seeing more of Turner, great turn of speed on the wing.

    All in all, manage the gain line and stop those daft schoolboy knock on’s.

  16. A frustrating game…Exeter were very efficient when it mattered, Glasgow less so…with several notable errors.

    I think a key factor is Exeter are much more free to be a club for the club’s sake – they are not expected to provide half a 6N squad (now and for rhe future) and can recruit accordingly.

    So they are not “wasting” lots of dough on internationals who maybe don’t fit the game plan 100%…nor are they “stuck” with ex-academy tyros if their development is a bit slower than hoped.

    These things are good for Scottish Rugby but not necessarily for the club’s prospects.

    1. The most expensive player in Scottish rugby is injured and when he returns , he is the game plan. Worth every penny.

    2. The comment was about Exeter — who won the game with a forward pack who won the breakdown, without attracting too much referee attention (despite wearing bright pink shirts). None of their tight 5 would be considered big names (well I’d never heard of them), but they are clearly high quality and experienced. There is some class in the back row with Simmonds, while the halves are solid without being too classy (i.e. not too expensive). The centres and 3/4 have some class (including Jack Nowell).

      In short the team is well designed and strongly focused on club success with only a few “stars” but quality throughout.

      Contrast with Glasgow — where the team is much more of a pick and mix of tyros, international stars, young internationals, club champions, a few journeymen and some high-quality imports.

      They are certainly not a bad team…but it is not as focused on the goal of winning club-level competition.

      How many of Glasgow’s players would you happily lose if they were not Scottish players? That is the decision Exeter can make that Glasgow can’t, or at least not as easily.

      I don’t know the behind-the-scenes business of the club or salaries etc, but for starters I’d say Pyrgos, Allan, Harley & Jones are all fairly replaceable from a talent point of view…for Edinburgh that list would be very long indeed…

      Even if they are pricey, Brown, Russell, Hogg, Seymour are not wasted money, because they give the club its spark. Gray I’m less sure of, for a big name he seems quite anonymous at times, but I’m happy to accept his value.

    3. I do not have a problem with your previous comment and I do not think you should be intimidated into giving any explanation.

      What I would say is while it has merit it is not the true picture, there are many other factors.

      I spend a lot of time in the west country . If you read the Citizen, the Gloucester equivalent of our Evening Times , the back 10 – 12 pages are all rugby and it is a daily rag , full of niff naff and trivia.

      If you drive from Worcester to Exeter on the M5 (No longer than the length of the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh) there is three Premiership clubs, Worcester, Gloucester and Exeter and the Championship leader Bristol. You need to hook left near Bristol to drive to Bath (about 15 miles). It is all rugby, a third of the English premiership is located within that tiny stretch. Sixways (the bottom club) alone has 12K capacity and it is sold out.

      These Exeter men may not be household names , but they were fished from a very very big pond.

      Now if you mean we need to stop pinning our hopes on a few big fish in a small pond, we might just be getting some quality chat in here.

      I am really enjoying some of our less well known faces getting a chance to show us what they can do. I am even more pleased to see them playing for each other, that was so missing last season.

      We need to stop considering that anyone other than Hogg, Dunbar, Seymour and Russell is just there to make up the numbers. It is a 15 man game and it takes every one to nail it.

      Glasgow came second on Saturday, however , they were up against a better side. Simple as that, we are as yet , not that consistent and they were.

  17. Now that Wales are introducing a minimum 60 caps to play for wales outside of the country it got me to thinking if this would be a good thing for scottish rugby to bring in ? now of course we are in a far different situation only having 2 clubs but then again edinburgh could certainly use better players and it might of meant players like richie gray , matt scott , Denton and visser to name a few staying in scotland longer. it may also have kept russell here longer. Im not against the way things currently are btw , but i wonder if it would help promote the professional game in scotland if we had more of our big names playing for both clubs.

    1. We don’t have enough clubs to do that… We need a good number of our squad playing outside Scotland so that youngsters can get a chance…. Glasgow (and the SRU) have the right approach already (2 clubs only not withstanding), and this game doesn’t change that.

    2. Really don’t think it’s necessary tbh. We only have 3 current players with 60 caps (Barclay, Gray and Ford) plus players like Taylor, Maitland and Barclay have really benefited from playing abroad while freeing up spots for the developing younger players at Glasgow and Edinburgh.

      Truth is, Scottish rugby is in an alright place at the moment and there’s not really any need to mess with it.

      Look what has happened to Argentina post RWC 2015…

  18. Just another Quick thought to add to this , players playing at say london scottish or Worcester warriors if the rumours where to happen could also qualify to be eligible if players where interested in the premiership , i dont know if this would be a good or bad thing though.

    1. Neil, I think the fact we only have two pro clubs now and for the foreseeable future militates against our adopting a 60 cap policy. Our two pro side squads would have to be crammed with Scots qualified players to keep the Test side competitive, and both clubs would suffer in club competition during AIs and 6Ns as the best players are taken away for internationals.
      Until or unless there is a larger pro club base, we will have to call on quality SQ players who ply their trade in mainly England, France and Wales to bolster the Test squad.
      In any case, if you’re good enough to be selectable for Scotland, does it really matter where you play your club rugby?

      1. Yes it does matter…

        Jackson has looked a new man since being back at Glasgow and getting game time. Others are getting limited game time in France (20 minutes for Greig I hear), and also probably getting “fat” with Top14 training regimes. Plus their workload is completely at the mercy of foreign owners who have zero vested interest in Scotland (except perhaps to see us lose).

        Nevertheless, the finances don’t allow more opportunity* at home, so experienced players leaving makes much needed room for new development.

        *One might argue in a circle that keeping good players at home, winning things, and attracting supporters makes more opportunities. So far that hasn’t happened here – maybe it is now with Glasgow.

      2. Alanyst, fair point about lack of game time at clubs outside Scotland being less than ideal for the individual or the national team. Wasn’t aware that has been the case for Laidlaw, but I suppose if he’s made a decision to move to improve his pay in his closing years at the top of the game then who could blame him for doing that and accepting the consequences.
        My closing point which maybe I should have elaborated on was that, if the Academy system continues to produce young players good enough to be pros and maybe even good enough in time to be internationals then where can they go, or where else can those they dislodge from our club sides go, to make a living from the game, other than in Scotland? Classic quart and pint-pot dilemma when you have only two pro clubs.

      3. Young players coming through the academy system are unlikely to get offered the opportunity to taste pro rugby anywhere other than Glasgow and Edinburgh, therefore in order to provide them that opportunity, more established players will be required to move on elsewhere, to clubs where they might be able to continue to develop as players, but will undoubtedly be able to earn more. The top 6 proposals should provide a better pathway and shop window for these young players, but it’s still going to be more lkely than not that it will be via Glasgow or Edinburgh that they initially progress.

        At best, Glasgow/Edinburgh can afford to hold onto only a small handfull of big earners (and thats ‘big’ in the Scottish Rugby sense, not in the Top 14 sense), and as JohnMc points out, the flipside of having a strong core of Scottish players in your squad is that you’re exposed during AI/6 nations, so several of these bigger salary players really need to be NSQ. There is possibly an argument for not having any Pro14 games during the international windows as it devalues the competition, but thats probably for another blog.

  19. We really need to create a better talent development system, we need to have players coming through the ranks of Ayr, Stirling, Melrose etc quicker than at the present time, I would have guys at 18 getting caps for Glasgow Warriors or Edinburgh, this would then allow Dave Rennie or Cockers to see where the talent is and where the excess baggage is, I would say that the likes of Magnus Bradbury and Blair Kinghorn are a mistake in terms of the selection process, there are better players playing week in week out, IM JUST A LITTLE DRUNK AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LETS GO CARZYYYYYYYYY ?????????????????????????????

  20. Anyone know what’s happening with Duncan Weir?
    On a broader note why are there so few posts about Embra?

    1. I guess he was rested for the London Irish game. Although no longer deemed good enough (by my erstwhile bloggers) for Scotland if something, god forbid, happen to Finn then he is first in line, still.
      As for Edinburgh, JP makes a good point – difficult to comment on a game where we’ve only got match reports to go on, and very few of those.
      Also, even Embra supporters like me are more likely to watch Glasgow at the moment, last weeks game the exception.

      1. I can field that one – we did ask on Twitter if anyone going to the game could write up a report on Edinburgh but didn’t get any volunteers (although we did get some twitter updates from the ground which were a big help!).

        It all depends on the manpower available and the timing of the games; a few of the guys have young families that naturally are a priority. It can happen that we’re all free Friday night but if an Edinburgh game isn’t on tv or happens on a Saturday afternoon when we have something else on, there’s no one available! The podcast was even invented as a means to keep our veteran writers involved when they have less time to contribute.

        With that in mind I am planning actively to look for another Sevens correspondent to help Ruaridh and possibly two Edinburgh writers to share the load and try and increase the balance a little, as having John and Iain share writing about Glasgow seems to work well and has meant the steady flow of write-ups. But leaves me covering Edinburgh (short answer: it’s my fault) and managing everything else… more hands to help with match reports might allow more time for opinion pieces too!

        In short, it’s a question of time to cover everything, and scheduling. Sometimes it works out that we have an Edinburgh report and nothing on a big Glasgow game which can also seem counter-intuitive.

        At the risk of shooting ourselves in the foot traffic-wise, I would also recommend David Barnes’ which does manage to cover just about everything!

  21. Laidlaw is out for the AIs. Although I see Ali Price as the future for Scotland having Laidlaw as backup, or to come on and close out a game, would have been ideal. I don’t see either Pyrgos or SHC as in form enough to play against Australia or NZ, or even Samoa.
    With Barclay still in doubt we are running short of experienced leaders, too.

    1. Yeah disappointing but not overly so. I’ve felt that Laidlaw has been on the wane this past 12-18 months and Ali Price is most likely going to be incumbent for a few years to come.

      It’s who’s going to be backup that’s the interesting debate. It’s likely going to be Pyrgos, although he’s looked a bit slow of late. SHC looks like finally getting back to form, and I’ve seen some people touting Finlay Christie from the Chiefs, although I think he may have his eye on the AB’s number 9 jersey since he’s lived there from being a young kid. What about Scott Steele from London Irish? Or George Horne? Or Charlie Shiel?

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