Belfast Telegraph

Alastair Kellock is so keen to make one last trip to Belfast

By Michael Sadlier

They got all they needed from last Saturday and chasing down the try bonus not only guaranteed Glasgow Warriors their home play-off but also saw them finish top of the table for the first time.

Not bad, but, of course, not good enough to celebrate with gusto. A staging post had been passed and nothing more. Yes, they had put Ulster away, handily enough in the end, but they had struggled for a significant part of the game thanks to their stubborn opposition but mostly due to the truly appalling weather conditions.

So, first blood to the Warriors, but they were making sure this week that no-one would reckon that Gregor Townsend's ambitious squad had even remotely bought into the notion that last week's game was of huge relevance for what is to come in tonight's semi-final.

Long-serving captain Alastair Kellock certainly wasn't entertaining any suggestion that winning the first of back-to-back games with Ulster will hold much sway when it all gets down to the nitty-gritty of getting to their second successive PRO12 final.

Even though Glasgow have made their Scotstoun ground into a fortress for visiting PRO12 sides, the about to retire Kellock was still strident in dismissing the idea that making the Belfast final will be a shoo-in for his team-mates as they plan to go one better than last year's defeat to Leinster.

"It will be a very different game," he said.

"I have played in enough European games back-to-back to know that seldom does it work out that the previous result has any reflection on the next 80 minutes."

Glasgow now have a taste for going after silverware. It also seems crucial for the long-battered morale of Scottish rugby that they continue to not only buck the trend in terms of being regular PRO12 semi-finalists, but actually prove that they are a side who can claim league titles and be competitive in Europe.

In Townsend they have the coach with a vision and an ambition to play the game with pace and width and this week's signing of Fijian winger Taqele Naiyaravoro from the NSW Waratahs exemplified the former Scotland and Lions player's desire to construct a backline full of devastating finishing.

But back to tonight and, not surprisingly, Townsend has made minimal change to his starting line-up.

Henry Pyrgos has been brought back at scrum-half while the dangerous Niko Matawalu - who lifted the club's Player of the Season award - is shifted to the wing in place of Sean Lamont who drops to the bench where, significantly, DTH van der Merwe has returned from injury and where Duncan Weir is also to be found.

The only other alteration sees Fraser Brown back at hooker after recovering from a hamstring injury with the about to retire Dougie Hall making way.

And just to add to the emotion of the evening in front what is expected to be another Scotstoun sell-out, this will the last time Kellock, Bath-bound Matawalu and Scarlets-bound van der Merwe will be seen in action at Glasgow's home.

All the more reason to make it a memorable occasion for the hosts as they plan for another evening out over in Belfast next weekend.

Belfast Telegraph


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