Euro landscape is backdrop to bigger picture for Glasgow

I WAS delighted when the draw for the pool stages of the Heineken Cup matched us with Ulster, Northampton and Castres.

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Gregor Townsend spent time with his football coaching counterparts this week
Gregor Townsend spent time with his football coaching counterparts this week

That's because we had been given the chance to test ourselves against some of the best teams in European rugby and for me that is what the tournament is all about.

Now we are set to go into our final two games with Ulster on Friday at Ravenhill and Northampton a week on Saturday.

We may have no hope of reaching the knockout stages but we still have an awful lot of pride to play for.

Focusing solely on the Ulster game, I would say we will have to improve 20% on our last meeting with them if we are to get the win we are determined to achieve.

There will be some changes this week and not least because of the sheer physical toll our game against Treviso took last Friday.

It's a pity Ryan Wilson sits this one out with a shoulder knock as he has been among our most consistent performers of late, but he will hopefully make it back for Northampton on Saturday week.

At stand-off, Duncan Weir will come back in for Ruaridh Jackson.

At the beginning of the week I had a short break from our preparations for the Ulster game to make a presentation to an SFA coaching course that included some of the biggest names in Scottish football management like Stuart McCall and Dougie Freedman. It was a fascinating experience.

There were a number of interesting differences in how I go about things in rugby with Warriors and how the lads from the world of football do things –none more so than when it comes to naming the team!

Each week our team is announced two days before the next fixture while in football it seems that the timescale is more usually two hours.

I take the stance that it is important that over the final two days of preparation that everything is geared to matchday.

Although the opposition may know your team that bit earlier than in football, I like to send out a positive message and focus on what we are doing.

Of course, there are arguments for and against both approaches and it was a fascinating session and great to mix with the lads from football.

But back to tomorrow night.My first Heineken Cup campaign has been a very frustrating one as there have been spells in every game we have played in which we have threatened to go on and secure victory only for success to slip through our hands.

We are first up on Friday night in Sky Sports' weekend of Heineken Cup coverage and we want to use that platform to show that Glasgow Warriors firmly belong in the competition.

We also want to use this game, with us lying second to the men from Ravenhill, to lay down a marker with Ulster for the second half of the PRO12 season.

We are in no mood to underestimate the size of the challenge that awaits us because right now, in Europe, Ulster are the team to beat. By the same token we believe that on our day we can beat them.

Tomorrow is about making sure that day arrives.


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