Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Townsend: Europe dream not over yet

Glasgow Warriors' head coach Gregor Townsend is not ready to write off his side's European ambitions just yet.

Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend insists he has not given up on Warriors' slim hopes of progress in Europe.

The Scotstoun men travel to Sandy Park on Saturday on Heineken Cup duty to face Exeter Chiefs, knowing their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals are all but dead.

They are rooted to the bottom of Pool Two with just six points from four games, nine behind leaders Toulon.

However, with one of three slots in the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup still potentially in their grasp, Townsend is not ready to write off their ambitions just yet.

He told Press Association Sport: " We still have a slim outside chance of qualification, not for the Heineken Cup but for the Amlin, so we want to make sure we get the win against Exeter and do all we can to get into the last round of games with that chance intact.

"Our attitude right now is never say never. A couple of weeks ago I thought we had no chance of making it through.

"But then I had a good look at all the groups and where we stand, and realised we are not quite out of it. Eight sides make it through to the Heineken Cup quarters and another three go into the Amlin.

"So results would have to go our way and we'd need to win these two massive games against Exeter and Toulon to put ourselves in the mix. It's a distant goal but we are not giving up on it."

Townsend has named the same team that would have played against Edinburgh on New Year's Day for Saturday's meeting with the Chiefs.

The 1872 Cup second leg was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Scotstoun, so the same 23 players have been given another opportunity for the trip south of the border.

After six weeks out of action with an ankle injury Sean Lamont returns on the left wing, while Stuart Hogg starts at full-back and Sean Maitland occupies the right wing berth.

Byron McGuigan and Alex Dunbar form a new centre partnership, with Ruaridh Jackson and Henry Pyrgos at fly-half and scrum-half, respectively.

In the forwards, Ryan Grant continues at loose-head, with Dougie Hall at hooker and Ed Kalman at tight-head.

Tim Swinson and Tom Ryder once again combine in the second row.

In the back-row, Rob Harley continues on the blind-side, with captain Chris Fusaro at open-side and Josh Strauss starting at number eight.

Townsend added: "Last week's postponement was disappointing for our supporters and for those selected to play against Edinburgh, but the upside of that is the players are fresh going into this game, having not played for more than two weeks.

"These next two games are important fixtures for the club as we aim to build momentum ahead of a very important part of the season.

"Exeter Chiefs continue to show how a good a side they are. They were unlucky to lose at Wasps last weekend and pushed Toulon close in both of their back-to-back games last month.

"They play an ambitious brand of rugby and have been consistent in their level of performance this season.

"We've not performed to the level we're capable of so far in this tournament, so we're looking to produce our best rugby over the next couple of weeks."

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