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Gregor Townsend: European success is true test of a team

Gregor Townsend admits he will have failed to transform Glasgow into a true European power if he cannot find a way to end their Champions Cup hoodoo this month.

The Warriors coach guided the Scotstoun outfit to a Guinness PRO12 title 18 months ago but believes progress in European's premier competition is the true measure of success.

Yet Glasgow have never made it past the group stage.

Now Townsend - who will quit Warriors this summer after five years in charge to take up the reins as Scotland boss - has one last chance to break new ground.

With two pool matches left to negotiate, starting with group leaders Munster at home on Saturday, Glasgow remain on course for the quarter-finals.

But if they slip up, Townsend concedes his team will once again have to accept being tagged among the competition's also-rans.

He said: "I believe if you really want to class yourself as one of the biggest teams in Europe, you have to do well in the Champions Cup.

"You have to get to quarter-finals and semi-finals and that's the challenge we have over the next two weekends.

"Hopefully things go well and that is where we find ourselves in a couple of months' time."

Glasgow sit second in Pool 1 but Townsend knows his side can take nothing for granted.

They trail Munster by three points but lead third-placed Leicester by five. However, the Tigers are likely to take maximum points against a Racing 92 outfit who have effectively thrown in the towel, meaning Glasgow's final group game at Welford Road should prove decisive.

But victory this weekend would significantly strengthen Townsend's hand.

However, he warned: "Munster are probably the best team in Europe right now on form.

"We haven't won four pool games in one season since I've been here and normally you need at least four to get out of your section. If we are able to produce that win then we will just have to look at the other results and see where we are ahead of Leicester next week."

Townsend will send out a team packed one to 15 with players boasting Scotland caps to face the Red Army after recalling full-back Stuart Hogg, front-rowers Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson and flanker Rob Harley.

And the Scotstoun boss admits he is relying on his big guns to fire straight and true.

"The 23 we have out tomorrow night is our best group of players and they are really focused for this game," he said. "When you play the big games - whether it be the PRO12 or the Champions Cup - you have to put out your best team.

"We have guys like Henry Pyrgos and Simone Favaro out injured. It would have been great to have everybody available but we are very confident with the squad we have got that we'll do very well."

Glasgow have lost both of their previous encounters with Munster this term.

Their earlier Champions Cup showdown back in October came just a week after the tragic death of Munster coach Anthony Foley and Warriors were swept away as a wave of emotion circled round Thomond Park, carrying the 14-man hosts to a 38-17 victory.

But Townsend reckons it will be Munster who are left quaking this time as the Scotstoun faithful prepare to turn up the volume.

"Our crowd are magnificent," said the Warriors coach. "This is an uncomfortable place to play for the opposition because of the noise that is generated by our fans.

"It's a great place for us to play though, not only because of the noise but because of the connection the players and supporters have.

"It's great to see all the different songs the fans in the East stand sing, especially when the opposition subs are warming up - last week it was the Hokey Cokey.

"As coaches we sometimes sit back and say what a brilliant atmosphere there is. Saturday will be a special game with a special atmosphere and that all helps to drive the players forward."


From Belfast Telegraph