Glasgow Warriors Team of the Decade

By Iain Hay and John Anderson

Jumping on the whole “End of the Decade” bandwagon, myself and John Anderson had a think at who have been the star Warriors since 2010. It was a relatively glorious period for the club, peaking of course with the Pro12 triumph of the 14/15 season. Should be easy!

Backs:

15. Stuart Hogg: Pro 12 winner, two-time 6N Player of the Year, two-times a Lion, the superstar who can turn an innocuous-looking kick return into a try, the Hawick born full-back can light up any match.

On his day, one of the best full-backs in the world. No question about this one at all. That he is so well marshalled now is a sign of the unbelievable respect that the world’s best coaches give him. And yes, he can defend…

There was that spell in 13/14, where he admits himself, he got too big for his boots and was rumoured to be looking for another club, but after a stern talking To(ony) he got himself back in favour. Less than a year later he scored an all-important solo score against Ulster in the Pro 12 semi-final when it looked like the visitors had the upper-hand.

At his very best, simply devastating, verging on unstoppable.

14: Tommy Seymour: He arrived from Ulster an unknown in 2011, but now having agreed to a new contract to keep him at Scotstoun until 2021, he will leave, whenever that time may come, as a Glasgow legend.

Twinkle-toed and with an empathic link up with Hogg and Finn Russell which would put Counsellor Troi from Star Trek TNG to shame, he has proven indispensable for nearly a decade. An interception king in his early days, Seymour is still one of the best high ball specialists in Scotland. Like Hogg, a shoo-in.

A potent try-scoring threat, one of the Warriors’ favourite moves off an attacking set-piece has been to deploy him in midfield, take possession as first or second receiver, then carve teams up with the ability to step off either foot. At his 2015-2017 best, one of the finest wingers in the Northern Hemisphere.

13: Mark Bennett: A slight case of “what could have been”, due to his wretched bad luck with injuries, but in the two seasons where he was at his injury-free best, there was not a prettier site to be seen than Mark Bennett jinking past defenders in narrow midfield margins.

His stand-out performance came against Bath in a thumping 37-10 European Champions Cup match, where he scored the opening and closing tries, and made mincemeat of the Bath midfield.

Was forced along the M8 in 2017, and at still only 26 years of age, hopefully there’s a way back into dark blue for the man who nearly won us that RWC 2015 quarter-final.

Even with Huw suddenly showing some great form, Glasgow definitely got the rough end of the Jones/Bennett deal. Was in his early days known simply as ‘God’ – a wonderful talent.

12: Alex Dunbar: The combination he struck up with Bennett was a classic of the “big-man, wee-man” variety, and the big man was at times colossal.

He may not be a ball-playing 12, but what he didn’t have in footballing skills, he more than made up with by just being a big, hard b**tard.

Rain-sodden pitch down in Llannelli? It’s fine, Big Eck will be clamping his hands all over the ball at the breakdown to claim Man of the Match. Lovely evening at Scotstoun against Zebre? Use him as a battering ram to get front-foot ball.

After an extraordinary performance against Toulouse, English World Cup Winner turned pundit, Will Greenwood, once asked in 2014 if there was a better inside centre in Europe. That’s how good Dunbar was at his best, but as with Bennett, a serious of unfortunate injuries, and after bizarrely being overlooked by Dave Rennie on many occasions, the former bedrock of the Glasgow back-line is now playing his rugby down in France.

When Rennie leaves, there will be 2 huge questions that need answered . Firstly, why did he not like Huw Jones, and secondly, what did he do to Alex Dunbar? One drunken train journey resulted in John declaring his undying love for the big man, and it hasn’t ever wavered. Also he has an awesome dog…

A cursed shame that he never got show his skills at a World Cup.

11: DTH van der Merwe: The all-time leading try-scorer for the Warriors, and the only Tier-2 (even though we promised not to use that term anymore) national player to score a try in every group game of a World Cup, the Canadian is a finisher of some repute.

Even a broken hand could not prevent him from sealing his rightful place in Warriors’ folklore, as he fought back to fitness, to first of all score a try which levelled the scores in the 14/15 semi-final v Ulster, and was again on hand to dot down in the famous final.

Following spells at Scarlets and Newcastle, he came back in 2018, and although he may not quite be the force he was the first time around, he still knows his way to the try-line.

We once interviewed DTH in the stairwell in the depths of Scotstoun, and despite him not being on media duty he accepted us pestering him and was an absolute gent. It’s great to see him back and is absolutely lethal when fit. The perfect foil to the madcap winger on the bench…

10: Finn Russell: A bigger shoo-in than Hogg. Whilst Warriors had Duncan Weir, Ruairidh Jackson and Scott Wight as other number 10 options during the decade – the first two also being the main contenders for a Scotland jersey – along came this arrogant, punk kid. Graeme Morrison once claimed he saw Finn, as a junior recruit, dancing in the corner of the Warriors’ weights room, when he was meant to be pumping iron.

And it was glorious. Here was an electric, proper game-changing 10, with the swagger of Mick Jagger, and the playing skills of Keith Richards.

He quickly saw off all the other contenders and is now regarded as one of the finest fly-halves in world rugby.

He also proved to be the final piece of the puzzle that took Glasgow to Pro12 glory. First notice of the bravery that has propelled him to such heights arrived in the 14/15 semi-final, when he floated a perfect 30m pass out wide to DTH, and then nailed the trickiest of conversions to put Glasgow into a lead they would not surrender.

He further cemented his place as a top-drawer stand-off, with possibly the only Warriors’ performance I could ever give a 10/10. Glasgow 23-7 Racing, on a night where he played arguably the world’s greatest ever stand-off, Dan Carter, off the park, with an unerring array of flicks, tricks kicks and even a tackle on the much larger Dimitri Swarzewski.

An irrefutable genius, who could still be playing here if it weren’t for the shoddy treatment of his father in the SRU Halls of Power.

He constantly reminds us of a simple expression – what’s the worst that could happen? The ultimate risk/reward taker, I would argue he is already firmly in the discussion for Scotland’s best ever 10. And don’t even get us started on his Racing madness…

9: Chris Cusiter: this was one of the harder picks. I know Niko Matawalu and his mad-cap ways suited the Warriors style of “play it fast, then play it faster”, but as a scrum-half against the tougher teams, this could oft go awry. (See the 13/14 final v Leinster, where Cus had to go off early, and Niko had a bit of a shocker.)

Cus was a remarkably good scrum-half at a time where all Scotland had was remarkably good scrum-halves. It’s almost not fair that at the time we had Cusiter, Mike Blair and Rory Lawson, all very capable scrum-halves, Scotland couldn’t find a stand-off good enough to complement whatever one of them was playing, hence why Greig Laidlaw was playing 10 at the start of his international career, but I’ll go with Cus.

Reliably good delivery, not afraid of a wee snipe himself, and just a safer pair of hands than Niko.

Had George “Hornito” Horne, been given a few more starts over his brief career, he would very well have been challenging, as I rate him that highly.

Solid, secure, electric when needed, controlled when needed. Cusiter was the ideal fit for Glasgow at that time.

Forwards:

1: Gordon Reid: Two seasons worth of Ryan Grant being incredibly good, will not shift “Gordzilla”.

Combative to say the least, his loose game may not be as impressive as Grant’s, but a very good scrummager who had Dan Coles on toast, along with 6 rashers of bacon, 2 square slice, 2 fried eggs and 4 tattie scones, when Glasgow hammered Leicester in 2016/17. Twice.

Not to mention an actual superhero. Let’s not forget when Gordo went on a surprising streak of being on the end of glorious Glasgow moves that he finished from 5 (or was it 50?) m out. And that celebration…

2: Fraser Brown: It was tight between him and Dougie Hall, but the current incumbent of the hooker slot just edges it.

The set-pieces are solid when he’s on the park, with ball in hand he shows great gas, and seeing as he’s a converted openside, phenomenally strong over the ball at the breakdown.

Sometimes quiet, almost boring, but what a competitor. Doesn’t give 2 hoots what shirt number he is wearing, he will go about his business in his own, silently brutal way.

3: Jon Welsh: Despite a late charge to the line from Zander Fagerson, Welsh just takes the honours due to being more solid in the scrum, the bread and butter of the front-row.

Was named in the Pro12 Dream Team of 11/12 (yes, Zander may have been included in last season’s edition, but really not sure how seeing as he spent so much of it injured) and featured in the title-winning side of 14/15.

4: Leone Nakarawa: It didn’t start well for the Fijian. In his first game he came on at blindside and looked all over the shop, but once he got to grips with the XVs game, he took a hold of it in one of his giant mitts and never looked back.

Up there with Russell and Hogg as arguably the greatest Warrior of the decade. Never shirked his main lock duties as a line-out weapon, hard tackler, and excellent at the breakdown, we all know Leone for one particular skill; them off-loads.

There could be two or three men tackling him, but the Big Uncle Naks would wrestle free an arm and chuck the ball off to a teammate.  

A diamond in the rough who was polished off to be one of the finest cuts in the world game, Nakarawa was subsequently awarded the 2018 European Player of the Year Award and will be back in a Glasgow Warriors shirt in 2020.

The final v Munster was everything that Leone was all about in one game: unplayable at his best.

5: Jonny Gray: Al Kellock may consider himself unlucky here, given the massive imprint he left as captain, but it’s hard to overlook the stats of “Stat Boy”, when the stats are so unbelievably overwhelming.

So dependable is he in the tackle area, you’re more likely to come across a rubber “Jonny” failure resulting in pregnancy, than a missed tackle from Jonny Gray. 43 tackles against Leinster in April 2019, a first-class match, world record. 43?!  

If there’s ever a game where Gray the Younger hasn’t made at least 20 tackles and missed none, you assume he’s injured to the point of being at death’s door.

Already a Warriors centurion at 25, if the opposition see him coming, they know they’re eating turf. The quiet man goes about his business with brutal accuracy and effect. An absolute workhorse.

6: Rob Harley: The go-to guy of the Toonie era. The image of Rob Harley walking off the pitch after the bruising 13/14 semi-final against Munster, which the Warriors won by a single-point, with Harley grinning like a Chesire cat with a Chelsea smile, covered in his own blood, symbolises this most Warrior-like of Warriors.

A constant pain at the breakdown, he looked on his way out a couple of seasons ago, but even Dave Rennie has grown to appreciate the gnarled, ginger-haired giant’s abilities.

Be it as emergency lock, or on the blindside, you know what Harley will bring. Aggression by the bucket-load.

Has never quite made the step up to international level, but a club stalwart with over 200 caps to his name. Scored the opening try in the 14/15 final.

7:  John Barclay: Left under a bit of a cloud, but the recently retired Scotland captain was still going strong up until 2013.

One of the famous “Killer B” back-row, his tactical nous, innate fearlessness and just being John Barclay,  give him the nod over fan favourite and human torpedo, Simone Favaro, and also Ryan Wilson, who is one of those 6.5 kind of players who covered the 7 slot during Warriors’ first foray into the knock-out stages of the Champions/Heineken Cup.

8: Josh Strauss: “The Beard That’s Feared”. A human wrecking-ball whom the Warriors have never really replaced.

An absolute brute of a player, who may have run a little too upright for some people’s liking, but if you tried to hit him high, those gargantuan quads could just keep him going.

When the going got tough, he would get going. Offered the hard-carrying, close quarter thumpage that has been sorely lacking in Scottish rugby.

Subs:

16: Dougie Hall
17: Ryan Grant
18: Euan Murray
19: Al Kellock
20: Richie Vernon
21: George Horne
22: Sam Johnson
23: Niko Matawalu

Tags:

Warriors season ticket holder and widely renowned ne'er-do-well, Iain has been watching rugby from a young age, but developed a true passion for the game whilst in the rugby hotbed that is New Zealand. Like Tommy Seymour, his hair-style icon, Iain does not like chickens.
Follow Iain on twitter @iainhay82

13 comments on “Glasgow Warriors Team of the Decade

      • Rj on

        Agreed on Horne and Cummings. Surely both should be starting this 6N. Gilchrist and Toolis do a decent job but with the start of a new WC cycle need to give these guys a chance now. Question is where do you fit skinner/gray and Cummings in. To be honest out of the 3 I would stick gray on the bench.

      • James Clark on

        when did Skinner last play? when he has a game or 2 under his belt for Exeter he should be considered, not before

    • sceptic 9 on

      agree. Peter Horne has been an amazing player for Glasgow. And despite Lineen’s stupid attempt to make him into a full back. I’d argue that he was the key the league winning team – a fairly raw (if excellent Russell) eased through with Horne at 12, no Dunbar and no Bennett – both injured much of the season Warriors still play some of their best rugby when he is on the park at 12, that 2nd play-maker role is a winner

  1. sceptic 9 on

    having waxed lyrical about Peter Horne, I’ll do the same about Eck Dunbar.
    Fir years he would be the 1st name on my teamsheet, only question being whether at 12 or 13. Much as I liked Bennett, that choice for Dunbar was for me about whether P. Horne was fit or required at 10!
    Oh and Dunbar was a far better all round centre than the article gives him credit for.
    Rennie was a fool in his management of him

  2. Neil on

    My team of the decade

    1. Reid
    2. Brown
    3. Fagerson
    4. Kellock (C)
    5. Nakarawa
    6. Harley
    7. Fusaro
    8. Strauss
    9. Matawalu
    10. Russell
    11. DTH VDM
    12. Horne
    13. Dunbar
    14. Seymour
    15. Hogg

    16. MacArthur
    17. Grant
    18. Kalman
    19. Gray
    20. Eddie
    21. Price
    22. Jackson
    23. Lamont

  3. Andy_N on

    James Eddie a notable absentee for me – I don’t think Warrirs fans even got the chance to vote for him. Probably benching as you can’t argue with the ‘Ginger Ninja’ taking the starting spot, but very much a go to player for the first half of the decade. No nonsense and hard tackling – a bit of a Jason White.

  4. Lochinverboy on

    Interesting column. Interesting that the reserves have a clutch of our nippers. Geo Horne and Cummings are wonderful prospects. Perhaps But Hutchenson could push on into this level, young Shiel looks the business and is very young. Alex Dunbar? The mystery of Rennies reign. Clearly one of the top NH inside centres. Interesting that with Johnson, a very fine player btw and Harris, defensively we were fine, but no go forward, no creativity in the RWC. In comparison to a fit Dunbar with the other mystery, Jones. However, I digress. Gordy Reid seems just to get better as time goes by. As does Russell. Finn may very well be the top all time 10 when he hangs his boots up.

  5. Stuart Mackenzie on

    Much as I liked him I think we have slightly rose-tinted specs re Alex Dunbar. Very good player at his best but had his limitations re distribution and tackling, even before the injury-related loss of pace which I think is the main reason Rennie didn’t pick him too often. Horne has played a lot more games and probably achieved more. As a minor point, I don’t think Dunbar and Bennett were picked together very often (again due to injuries), for all that many people saw them as the ideal combo.

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