Following a second Play-Off place in three years, it is all change with the Glasgow Warriors. As they set-up to play at their new Scotstoun home, coaches have left.
Gone is head coach Sean Lineen and enthusiastic defensive coordinator Gary Mercer, and in steps new head coach Gregor Townsend with defensive assistance from the SRU’s national assistant coach Matt Taylor. Forwards coach Shade Munro is retained.
As well as the coaching changes, several experienced players have left. Johnnie Beattie has signed for Montpellier; Federico Aramburu is away; Richie Gray will take on the Aviva Premiership as a Sale Shark.
Glasgow have also signed several players, though, and this goes some way to demonstrating the kind of changes new coach Townsend will want to implement. The Warriors were always noted for having a stoic and thrifty defence, but also for lacking in both attacking finesse and ruthlessness near the try line.
They will hope that points scavenger Duncan Weir can be a bit more creative, now that he is settled into a starting role, as well as feeling excited about the attacking potential of Stuart Hogg. However, they have also looked to add attacking ballast. Obtrusive ball carrier Sean Lamont joins brother Rory at Scotstoun and much will be expected of the winger-come-centre.
Many fans have expressed hopes that Lamont can get Glasgow going forward, as well as being hopeful that he can inspire his brother to rediscover some form, as well as teasing performances out of Graeme Morrison. In order to attain front foot ball they have also signed up abrasive back-rowers. Angus MacDonald comes in as an All Black, while Viliami Ma’Afu is a Tongan number eight who played for the Auckland Blues.
Both men come in from Japanese rugby and will be asked to add ugly carries to the Glasgow game. With former Newcastle Falcon Tim Swinson coming in to fill Gray’s second-row spot there will be a hope that there is enough weight to upset defences.
The success of this plan comes down to Townsend’s coaching, though. Known as a student of the game, the former British & Irish Lion is known to wax lyrical about southern hemisphere coaching techniques and the back play ideals, but he never quite translated this into team performances during his time as Scotland’s attack coach.
If he can get Glasgow going forward with intent and an ability to score then he will have achieved change on the west coast. This being said, though, the fans would feel fairly sore should the defence collapse with such new focus.
Glasgow have always been a gritty side. Their brief this term is to compete on a European stage as well as in the RaboDirect PRO12. In their opener against Heineken Cup finalists, Ulster, it will be evident if they have retained that grit whilst adding a rapier attack.
Best addition to your side?
In attack it will probably be Sean Lamont, but defensively a lot will be hoped of Angus MacDonald.
Opening day prediction?
It may be close, but Ulster are strong at Ravenhill and will be buoyed by their Heineken exploits and recent new signings. Ulster could win by 9points.
Overall season prediction for your side?
They can push for the Play-Offs again, but a lot depends on how much they are invested in the European dream. They will definitely scrap for whatever place they get.
Weir will be top points scorer… and I would bet on them to retain the 1872 Cup. Sorry, Edinburgh.
Who's going to win the RaboDirect PRO12?
Ospreys could certainly do it again, but Leinster have the firepower. One of those two.
Alan writes for the Scottish Rugby Blog.