Glasgow coach Sean Lineen and captain Ali Kellock have praised the increasing competition for places within the Warriors squad.
The highly-respected duo guided last season’s Magners League Play-Off semi-finalists to a huge Heineken Cup win over London Wasps at the weekend and both men immediately pointed to the strength in depth coming through at Firhill.
The Warriors were without a number of star players for Sunday’s 20-10 triumph over the former European Champions but their replacements were outstanding in almost every department.
It’s a scenario that seemed highly implausible when Lineen lost the likes of Scotland regulars Dan Parks and Kelly Brown in pre-season and was then forced to do without players of the calibre of Kellock and Johnnie Beattie and Chris Cusiter through injury.
"A lot of it comes down to competition," said Lineen after his men scored 17 unanswered points to dispose of messrs Flutey, Shaw and Betsen in the penultimate round of continental action.
"One example is at loosehead prop where Ryan Grant’s really taken his opportunity. He’s really dynamic on the ball but Jon Welsh hasn’t been happy with that so there’s been a real battle for the spot, which is what you want in every position.
"The more competition we can get, the easier it makes the coaches’ jobs. It drives the standard up and that’s what we need.
"Ryan Wilson was man of the match and it was great to see a young lad like that come through. We have a lot of faith in him: he was fantastic and I’m delighted for him.
"He’s got a great attitude. He’s a first year pro but he’s really comfortable at the back of the scrum, which is important. There were things going on there but he still managed to look after the ball.
"In the backs I thought Peter Murchie at 12 worked really hard and Freddie Aramburu was very strong defensively. The forwards put in a huge shift, too. I thought the setpiece, by and large, was outstanding. Colin Gregor’s getting better and better at No9 but he needed to have a platform to do that.
"I’m delighted for the squad and for guys like Robert Harley who hasn’t played a bad game all year. He’s been on the receiving end of a few loses so it’s great for him to get a win after playing so well again."
Robert Harley is one of Glasgow's young guns
While Lineen may be smiling now, his captain could have been forgiven for wondering if the cupboard was getting barer during a summer remembered more for departures rather than arrivals. But Kellock has always believed in the Glasgow cause. He’s never been one to moan or to question things beyond his control. Instead he simply rolls up his sleeves and gets on with the job – an attitude that appears to be prevalent throughout the Glasgow ranks.
Although the giant second row now admits that the strength of the squad at the end of last term in comparison to the start of this one raised a few eyebrows, he’s been nothing short of delighted with the commitment, enthusiasm and willingness to learn shown by the new breed of Warrior hoping to follow in his footsteps.
"At the beginning of season you’d possibly look at our squad and say it doesn’t have the depth that it had last year. To be honest, that was probably true," added Kellock, who missed the opening rounds of this season having required surgery after leading his country to an historic series success in Argentina.
"There were a lot of guys coming in for their first year as a professional – Ryan Wilson’s a prime example of that. But the fact that we can rest four/five/six guys from our team and have guys that are ready to step up shows the hard work that we’ve done in the last six months.
"Ryan now in comparison to what he was in August? He’s a different animal. He showed it against Wasps and he showed it when he came off the bench against Edinburgh. He carried ball, he’s a very difficult guy to tackle and we’re really pleased with the work that’s been going on during the week.
"Chris Fusaro’s another one like Ryan, and Peter Horne as well. These guys are working incredibly hard. They know they’re not going to get a run out of every week but they still pitch up and do exactly what they need to do in the gym."
Ali Kellock is impressed with the growing depth at Glasgow
Glasgow’s youngster’s excelled against a Wasps side who had quarter-final qualification within their grasp. They outshone the Londoners’ more familiar names and outworked their more illustrious opponents despite seemingly having nothing but pride to play for.
But it wasn’t just those fringe players with a point to prove who made a real impact for Lineen’s men. Everyone – and I mean everyone – stood up to be counted. This was Glasgow at their very best. One in, all in appeared to be the mantra for the day. ‘Where you go, I go – we’re in this together’ must surely have been a part of Kellock’s pre-match team talk because not one of his troops was found wanting even when they fell behind early on. Heads didn’t drop nor did spirits fall.
It’s an attitude that will serve Glasgow well as they look to overcome an inconsistent first-half of the season when they return to Magners League action next month.
"We spoke during the week about our expectations at this time of year when you come into these last set of European games," continued Kellock.
"Unfortunately, we’ve got quite a bit of experience of coming into these last two games not having anything to play for as far as qualification’s concerned.
"The expectation externally is that one team will win it, and that the other will try hard. The expectation that we had and the expectation we set from day one when we came in was that we were going to win the game. Regardless of what we were playing for, it was massively important for us to win.
"It’s a bitter pill to swallow to come into the last two games with nothing to play for. Every time I go down to the Heineken Cup launch I say that we want to be coming into the final few games with something to play for. It’s what we desire and it’s what we want.
"What’s really important is that we still have some say on what happens. We’re not making up numbers and we have to have some sort of say on who’s going to win the pool and who’s not.
"We talked before the Wasps game about how our individuals could outplay theirs,and you don’t do that by sitting back; you don’t do that by coming off the park thinking ‘I wonder if I should have done this or should have done that’. It’s about 100 per cent commitment, so we try things.
"All the things you say in meetings mean nothing unless you put something behind them. Against Wasps we put steel behind those words."