Glasgow Warriors’ Gregor Townsend insists Lions’ full-back Stuart Hogg will remain at the club despite leaving him out of his Rabo Pro12 final squad. Rumours linked Hogg with Ulster, but it is also understood that Saracens and a number of Top 14 clubs are interested. Despite this, Townsend was adamant that while it was a difficult decision to leave him out of the team, he will remain at Scotsoun next season.
“He will be playing with Glasgow (next year),” said Townsend when asked was his exclusion as a result of him not being a Glasgow player next year before adding: “No, He’s contracted to us so he will be playing with Glasgow.” When asked about the fact that Hogg had spoken to other teams, Townsend stated: “I’m going to repeat the same response which he is contracted to us, so he will be with us next season.”
“It was a difficult decision (to leave Hogg out). We have a number of players who have missed out on selection that feel they should be in the team that have been playing well. We used 36 players in our nine games winning run and most of those players have played really well. It was one of those tough decisions.”
Hogg didn’t travel with the team today but Townsend said he will arrive tomorrow, adding that all their non-players are going to come over. The full-back position will be filled by Peter Murchie who Townsend said has proven his worth in his side’s run of nine consecutive wins. Questioned what Murchie brought to the team that Hogg didn’t Townsend was quick to lay praise at the 28-year olds feet.
“Peter’ played in eight of our last nine games and we won all those games. Peter’s played very well during that period. He’s a different type of player. He’s fearless, excellent work rate, excellent under the high ball and he’s really built his attacking game and played excellent against Munster two weeks ago.”
As a player he reached a European Cup semi-final but Townsend admitted that while any victory is down to the players, their triumphant semi-final clash with Munster brought him back to his playing days. It has taken Townsend just two years in charge of the Scottish outfit to bring them to a final after getting to four semi-finals finals in the last five years.
“When I was a player, we didn’t get to play many finals, so it’s great to be involved in a final for the players. To see the work they have put in over the season, the work they put in in that semi-final and it was such a joy to see them getting that result. It’s a great achievement, but we’ve got one game to go. We’re all excited and we can’t to throw everything at Leinster.
“The semi-final was as close as it has been to the feelings I would have had when I was a player. When you are a coach, you focus on different things, you obviously don’t exert the physical energy the players do. It is their victory. They have worked hard for it in the 80 minutes and you are thinking about the next game. The occasion at Scotstoun against Munster and the way the players played, it felt like as coaches we were out there with them.”
While the decision making which has left Hogg out of the matchday 23 may be difficult, the mountain in front of Glasgow is just as tough. Glasgow have fallen twice at the latter stages of the League against Leinster and Townsend believes his side must learn from the mistakes of the past to get over this hurdle.
“We have got to learn from those two games. They were harsh lessons losing a couple of seasons ago and especially last year when it went to two points and almost went to extra-time. We have got to take what we have learnt from those two games and also build on our winning performances over the last nine weeks and put that into our best game of the season. That is what it is going to win tomorrow.”
Cillian O Conchuir, Pundit Arena.