Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Ulster Rugby v Glasgow Warriors: Home team won't drop intensity levels in search for silverware

It seemed rather appropriate that Tommy Seymour was wheeled out this week to share his thoughts about tonight's game at Scotstoun.

After all, the American-born winger's career path began at Ballymena and Ulster before he rightly reckoned there was greater opportunity to be had at Glasgow.

That was three years ago and the now 25-year-old has even managed to break through to the full Scotland side, qualifying via his mother coming from Glasgow, so when he is put up to talk about another clash with his former employers you, expect the usual responses about 'familiar faces' etc.

But not this time. Seymour, instead, aired the general sense of frustration which has been brewing at the Warriors and with three PRO12 losing semi-finals behind them over the last four seasons you can understand why.

The former Ireland U19s player, who was educated at Down High School, was part of the Warriors side which stunned Munster by winning 22-5 last Saturday at Thomond Park of all places.

Yet despite this landmark result, Seymour still had a stark message to deliver as Glasgow – currently in fourth with a game in hand on their rivals – focus on copper-fastening a likely looking place for another end of season play-off, though with a first home semi-final still a potentially viable prospect.

"We celebrated the fact that we had gone to Munster and got a big win," Seymour said of last weekend's shock result.

"But the heads were on and we mentioned in the changing room that this was just one game in a season where we want to go out and win medals and win finals."

And that's just it. An attention-grabbing set of results which has seen Gregor Townsend's squad rack up four PRO12 wins on the bounce is all very fine, as indeed is the fact that they have conceded fewer tries (17 so far) than any other side, but the Warriors are anything but contented with their lot.

Indeed, there is a sense of urgency in their desire to break the Irish stranglehold on league silverware over the last three years which has seen Leinster (in 2013) and Munster (in 2011 and 2012) triumph after two of these finals – last year Ulster made a rare appearance – have been contested between the two southern rivals.

Seeing off Munster – and being the first side to do so at Thomond Park this season – has instilled belief that the Warriors can potentially make it all the way to the final and with games to come against Edinburgh and Zebre at home and Treviso away, they are certainly in a strong-looking position to claim a home play-off.

First up, though, it's Ulster, from whom they snatched a late and narrow win when over at Ravenhill back in September. Warriors' defensive coach Matt Taylor has already identified tonight's meeting as the side's biggest game of the season and there's no doubting that.

Townsend has certainly set his stall out with his selection and though his pack is unchanged, he has called up centre Peter Horne for his first starting place in nearly a year after being out most of this season with injury and he lines up in a changed midfield from last week with Mark Bennett coming in for the sidelined Alex Dunbar.

But the most noticeable call for the Scotstoun clash is at out-half where Finn Russell is preferred to Duncan Weir and the 21-year-old, who played centre last week, will be a new half-back partner for veteran and skipper Chris Cusiter.

It looks risky, but Townsend has made the call and has stressed that this performance must be based on the same work-rate that was shown in Limerick. Indeed, Glasgow's ambitions demand it, just ask Seymour.

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