Glasgow Warriors: Townsend expects hard Pro12 defence

By David CurrieReporting Scotland presenter
Glasgow Warriors players in training
Glasgow's squad will be depleted at the start of the season due to the World Cup

Head coach Gregor Townsend says it will be "very difficult" for Glasgow Warriors to finish in the Pro12's top four this season.

Warriors are the defending champions after beating Munster in the final last term - Glasgow's first Pro12 title.

They open their campaign against Scarlets at Scotstoun on Saturday.

"While I have fond memories of last season, especially the final when we beat Munster in Belfast, we have to move on," Townsend told BBC Scotland.

"To make the play-offs requires consistency, it requires fronting up at training, playing well every week just to get in the top four.

"Last season there was just one point separating the top four teams and one of the best teams in Europe, Leinster, didn't even make it.

"This year I expect the other four in the top five to be challenging, but I also expect big things from Edinburgh.

Glasgow's opening fixtures
Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets (5 Sep)Glasgow Warriors v Connacht (11 Sep)
Munster v Glasgow Warriors (2 Oct)Glasgow Warriors v NG Dragons (16 Oct)

"They are going to dangerous this year, they have recruited well, have good young players and a lot of experience in their pack.

"So, we have to be better; better as a coaching staff, better in how we train, how we prepare away from the field just to get ourselves into the position we found ourselves last year but a little bit extra will help us achieve more than we did last year.

"That little bit extra will come from the players, we're very impressed by what we've seen in pre-season training we have a great mix of players."

However, Townsend will be without 20 players during the World Cup with 16 of his squad in Scotland's 31-man selection and four other Warriors representing other nations.

"This is a unique season, which provides its own challenges," explained Townsend.

"But I think we could have had more players in the Scotland squad, I'm immensely proud of how many have made it, it also gives opportunities to young players to come in and show what they can do.

"We've put a squad of high quality players together, we were looking for players who could add depth so we have some new players who are in loan and some who are on joint contracts with clubs so they can be released to play for us when others are on international duty."

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend
Townsend has been in charge of Glasgow since 2012

One of the new intake of Warriors players is the 85-times capped Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair, 34.

Now retired from international duty, Blair has signed a two-year deal with Glasgow and has been named as one of the replacements against Scarlets.

"Mike will be a real help to us because he has good experience and will help bring on some of our younger players," Townsend told BBC Scotland

"He'll also help us on the coaching side noticing things from a player's point with great experience but with a coach's eye. I believe he will go on to be a very good coach.

"But he also comes is a quality scrum-half who had a really good season playing with Newcastle last season."

Against Scarlets, Townsend expects a rousing opener.

"It will be a good game," he added. "Scarlets are an excellent, tough side who like to play open rugby. But we want to start the season with a bang and continue from there.

"I'm quite relaxed about it. We've had high quality training sessions this week, the pitch is in great condition and it'll be a sell-out or close to a sell-out.

"If we can do the business on the field I'd like to think we can have full houses for a lot of our games."