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Gregor Townsend determined to break new ground in Europe before leaving Glasgow

Published 07/10/2016

Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend wants to make his mark in Europe
Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend wants to make his mark in Europe

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend admits he is aiming to make his mark on Europe before bowing out of Scotstoun.

The Scotland boss-in-waiting is gearing up for his last shot at the Champions Cup before moving east to Murrayfield to take over the national team next summer.

But before he goes, Townsend is determined to b reak new ground on the continent with his side.

Warriors have never made it past the pool stages and their chances of ending that long streak of failure again appears tough after being grouped with Leicester, Munster and Racing 92 in this year's competition.

They face English giants Leicester and Irish big guns Munster - clubs who can both point to a pair of European crowns on their honour boards - in their opening double header this month but before that they must take care of Guinness PRO12 strugglers Zebre in Italy on Saturday.

Townsend is hoping his team can follow up last weekend's victory over Newport and then set about finally leading his side to the knock-out stages.

He said: "This weekend is about building up some momentum ahead of the European games. It's obviously better after a win, the journeys back, the team meetings, the training the week after - everyone feels better.

"Europe has always been a priority for us and we've always taken it as serious as possible - but this year it has become even more so.

"Does the fact this is my last season give us more incentive? Maybe because it's the last time we'll have a crack at it as a group.

"But it's not just because of me as a coach. Players change clubs every summer.

"We know we've got a big opportunity. We're up against some top sides but I believe in this group of players. If we play to our potential we can get out of this pool."

Flanker Ryan Wilson admitted this week that Glasgow's past European let-downs were self-inflicted after suggesting they had failed to take the competition as seriously as some of their rivals.

But Townsend is adamant that will not happen this time.

"Europe was the first thing the players said when we came together after the PRO12 semi-final defeat last season," he explained. "We talked about doing better this year and playing to our potential. They mentioned we hadn't done as well as we could have in Europe.

"Now we want to make that breakthrough, so we're doing a couple of things slightly differently which should give us that Test match feel and preparation. It's going to be like a Test when you play Leicester, Munster and Racing 92.

"We're bringing the squad together a bit earlier. We're spending some time away together. It's just designed to get us into that mindset that this is a game we need to prepare for even more so. We need to know our opponent better and the preparation has to be at a higher level."

Townsend is taking no chances ahead of that European opener and so w ill rest a number of his big stars against Zebre ahead of hosting Leicester next Friday.

He has made 11 changes to the side that beat Dragons, with full-back Peter Murchie back-rower Josh Strauss, lock Rob Harley and prop Sila Puafisi the only men retaining their places.

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