Gregor Townsend: Back to business after Barca trip

It’s been a while since my last column so I thought I would share with the readers a flavour of what goes on during the RBS Six Nations period for a club like Glasgow Warriors.
After a good win over Zebre three weeks ago, Glasgow are ready to tackle Leinster. Picture: SNSAfter a good win over Zebre three weeks ago, Glasgow are ready to tackle Leinster. Picture: SNS
After a good win over Zebre three weeks ago, Glasgow are ready to tackle Leinster. Picture: SNS

First of all after our last game against Zebre, which was a very good win on a weekend in which most of the other teams at the top of the Guinness Pro12 table lost, our players were given a much needed week of recovery.

But for the rest of the staff there was still a lot of work to do as injured players continued their rehab with our medical and performance team. For others in our staff it was an opportunity to progress our planning for next season, or a chance to learn from other sources.

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I was fortunate enough to have two days with Barcelona Football Club which provided a fantastic insight into their winning environment, experience their superb training facility and see what has made them not just one of the best football clubs on the planet, but also one of the best development pathways in world sport.

Probably the most important thing I learned was that their playing and development philosophy has buy-in from everyone at the club and that what is required to be a Barca coach or player is understood by all those employed by the club.

This attachment to the club acts as both a motivator for young players in the academy to aspire to play for the first team and a reassurance to the coaches that the players that do graduate are totally versed in how to play the Barca way. It was a very worthwhile trip.

We also had Warriors staff members visiting other sporting organisations such as the Dutch national hockey team, PSV Eindhoven and a leading rugby league club, so our culture of learning from the best has been in full flow recently.

With no game on their return to the club last week, the players that were not involved in the Scotland-Ireland game worked really hard during an intense week of training in which our focus was very much on skill development and games-based conditioning.

This has now enabled the players to look forward to the next few weeks with renewed energy and added resilience. Watching the squad put in a huge effort last week again brought home to me how lucky we are to have such a good group of players at the club. There is a willingness to work for each other and a desire to improve, which makes it much easier for us coaches to help them become better rugby players.

We had set a goal during the Six Nations period of recording the most points in comparison to the other teams battling for a place in the play-offs – Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Ospreys – our own mini-Five Nations championship.

So I’m glad to say that we finished joint top of this group for the four matches we played, which was a great achievement from the players. Considering we had 22 players unavailable for our game against Ospreys and 25 missing when we took on Munster, it reaffirmed that we have a good depth in the squad and genuine competition for places.

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Around this point of the season is always a very busy period in terms of recruitment and retention of players. We take these decisions very seriously and understand the responsibility of making sure that the budget is spent in the right way to improve the club.

It’s important that our players are rewarded for their effort and gains they have made throughout the season but also that any players that we are looking to bring in are they type of individuals who will add to what we already have at Scotstoun. Our analyst Gavin Vaughan does great work in supporting me on this.

We announced earlier this week that Shade Munro, who has been a fantastic contributor of the club’s success over the past few years, will be leaving in the summer. It was the toughest decision I have had to make in my coaching career and I’d like to thank Shade for all his work and support over these past three seasons. There is no one more determined than Shade for us to end the season on a high.

We are all aware that Friday night’s game at Leinster in Dublin could have a big influence on how the final league positions shape up.

With Leinster currently just outside the top four they will be targeting this game as one to get back to winning ways and put pressure on those teams who are in the play-off spots.

Without doubt it is the ultimate test for us to go to the RDS and look to produce a positive result.

We’ve had some excellent battles with Leinster over the last three years – most of them have been refereed by Nigel Owens, and it is great to see that he is back in charge this weekend.

I believe that the games have always been good to watch as both teams aim to play at tempo with both squads boasting some fantastic rugby players.

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Certainly it will be interesting to see how many players Ireland release back to Leinster following their wonderful RBS Six Nations campaign. While with Leinster facing Bath in the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final the following week it will be a intriguing decision for their head coach Matt O’Connor on how to get the best out of his squad for the next few weeks – but it is a nice problem to have.

Yet the fact that Leinster have only one injury in their full squad means that whatever team they field against us will be packed full of international players.

I was very proud to watch the Glasgow players playing for Scotland over the last few weeks and the effort they put in and the great ability they demonstrated throughout the championship. I have also been very pleased with the mind-set and sharpness they have shown since they returned to the club and they have got back into training very quickly and are all keen to be considered for selection this weekend. We plan to go over to Dublin with a strong side and put everything into making life as difficult as possible for Leinster.

• It has been confirmed that Glasgow Warriors will take on Ulster on Saturday 16 May, in the club’s final Guinness Pro12 match of the regular season. The game at Scotstoun will kick-off at 3pm – with all the games on the final day kicking off simultaneously. The club expect to have an increased capacity for this match and tickets are available now from