Pro12: Glasgow 'the team to beat' after 'clinical' win at Connacht

Stuart Hogg touches down Glasgow's third try against Connacht
Stuart Hogg contributed a try in a man-of-the-match display for Glasgow

Glasgow are the "team to beat" in the Pro12 after a clinical dismantling of champions Connacht in Galway, says former Ireland wing Denis Hickie.

The 2015 champions showed their intent with a consummate win at the same venue where their hopes ended last season.

While acknowledging Connacht looked "under-cooked" after only one pre-season game, the watching Hickie was "hugely impressed" by the Warriors.

"On the form they showed, they look the team to beat," he told BBC Sportsound.

"They just look like a team that really knows what they are about. They have played a certain style under Gregor Townsend for a while and they were really impressive.

"They put huge width on their game, they kept their shape throughout the match and to be that clinical in the first match of the season was hugely impressive.

"I think they will definitely be the pace-setters this season. They are going to get better and better.

"They have players coming into their prime - guys like full-back Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray in the second row.

"Hogg is hugely exciting, with great pace. At critical times in the past, he has made mistakes that have proved costly to his team. But the older you get, you learn to cut out those mistakes.

"They lost a key player in Leone Nakarawa, but they have a big strong pack, they will be very hard to beat in Glasgow and they showed they can win on the road as well."

Tommy Seymour scores one of his two tries for Glasgow against Connacht
Tommy Seymour bagged a brace of tries as Glasgow showed a clinical edge

Two tries from Scotland wing Tommy Seymour gave Glasgow a 13-5 interval lead at The Sportsground and further scores from Hogg, Tim Swinson and replacements Sila Puafisi and Sean Lamont stunned the defending champions.

Glasgow assistant coach Mike Blair, the former Scotland scrum-half, admitted the Warriors "really hit the ground running".

"We were really pleased with how things went," he told BBC Scotland's Sportsound. "We were very clinical when we got the opportunities, which is something we have been working hard on.

"Connacht are a very good side and they move the ball around a lot. The wind and rain maybe took them out of their attacking rhythm, but we really played well."

Blair said revenge for their back-to-back defeats in Galway on the final day of the regular season, and again in the semi-final play-offs, was not a primary motivation.

"Those two disappointing losses were certainly on the players' minds and Connacht didn't have the same team as then, but the way we played certainly showed a lot of hunger," he noted.

Glasgow wing Leonardo Sarto and co-captain Jonny Gray celebrate victory at Connacht
New wing Leonardo Sarto and co-captain Jonny Gray contributed to Glasgow's six-try win

"With this group, the guys really put everything out there, so the revenge side side doesn't come into it too much.

"Just after half-time, when we really put the squeeze on, we were able to bring on Sila Puafisi (Tonga), Ryan Grant (Scotland) and Corey Flynn (New Zealand) - all international players - in our front row.

"The experience these guys bring when players are starting to fatigue is grea, and means you can raise the intensity."

Townsend move 'great for Scottish rugby'

Blair believes that, far from proving a distraction to the Warriors, Townsend's departure at the end of the season to take over as Scotland head coach will benefit Glasgow and ultimately Scottish rugby.

"The players want to impress Gregor with him moving on to the Scotland job," he noted. "They are a group who want to learn and are constantly pushing each other to get better, win games and win leagues.

Mike Blair oversees pre-match preparations for Glasgow
Blair has moved into a coaching role with Glasgow after retiring at the end of last season

"I was coached by Gregor when he was with Scotland (as backs and attack coach) and he was excellent then, but he has taken it to another level now with the detail he puts on it.

"He is constantly looking at what other teams are doing really well, taking best practice and trying to integrate that. It is not just a case of saying 'we do this' but learning from other teams - and other sports as well.

"I think he will be excellent for Scotland. The players really want to play for him, because he puts an incredible amount of time into what he does for them.

"I get emails from him at 1.30am asking me to look at something by 7am the next day.

"He will bring that work ethic into the Scotland set-up and give the players freedom to help shape what they do and express themselves. I think it will be great for Scottish rugby."

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