Graeme Morrison Interview: 'There is a real buzz about things' as Glasgow enter the business end of the season

Glasgow Warriors have an important few weeks coming up
©SNS Group/Glasgow Warriors

At one end of the M8, the 2022/23 season is petering out, but at the other, there are still two trophies up for grabs.

Edinburgh Rugby cannot make the URC play-offs and are out of Europe, meaning their campaign will end with a league trip to Ulster on April 21.

Glasgow Warriors on the other hand could still have seven matches left if all goes to plan and they make it through to the European Challenge Cup final on May 19 and then the URC Grand Final on May 27.

In the Challenge Cup, they are through to a semi-final clash at the Scarlets in Wales on April 29 while, with two regular season league matches to come, they are trending towards a home play-off quarter-final.

Last season, under previous head coach Danny Wilson, they made the last eight of the play-offs, but they were thumped 76-14 by Leinster on the road.

That signalled the end of Wilson’s time in charge and since then, South African head coach Franco Smith has turned things around quite dramatically.

"I think Glasgow have done incredibly well this season. It has almost been like an overnight turnaround from last year,” former Warrior Graeme Morrison told TRU.

"They have had an extremely good run of results recently and I have been really impressed by the way the guys have been expressing themselves on the pitch, the belief they have and the expectation to win they have within the group.

"Franco Smith has done a great job at reigniting some pride back into the squad and what has been evident in the last few weeks is that the guys who have come back from international duty have really pushed things forward.

"The guys who were not involved in the Six Nations must take credit too because they stepped up to the plate during that period and they have given the coaching staff some interesting selection headaches for the run-in.

"They are a pleasure to watch, they play a really exciting brand of rugby and they play an expansive game. It is fast-paced and it is suiting them really well.

"Speaking to people who are involved at the club, there just seems like there is a real buzz about things just now and long may that continue.

"They have a great opportunity to get to a European final. The Scarlets are languishing in the bottom half of the URC table, so Glasgow will fancy their chances in the semi, but going to Wales is never easy. A European semi will see the Scarlets being a different beast.

"The two sides obviously play this Friday in the URC, so that one will be interesting, but if Glasgow can win that and then beat Connacht at home in the league next week, then it’ll give them a fair bit of momentum heading into Europe again while they’ll also fancy the league play-offs."

“They are on fire and their tails are up”: The Huwipulotu factor

While Glasgow’s progress this term has come through a raising of the standards across the whole squad, there is no doubt that centre pairing Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones have played a big part.

Jones returned from Harlequins in the summer for a second spell at Scotstoun and he and Tuipulotu clicked instantly for club and country.

"They are on fire and their tails are up,” Morrison, a former centre himself who played 177 times for the Warriors and 35 times for Scotland, said.

"I have been hugely impressed by that partnership, they complement each other extremely well. Sione is not just a battering ram, he is a very clever rugby player who can create space for others with his deft touches while he has a good
kicking game.

"He is a huge presence in defence as well and Huw has been the biggest beneficiary of the way he draws and sucks in defenders. The number of tries he has scored running short lines off him has been great to see.

"Glasgow are blessed with a very strong batch of centres just now. Stafford McDowall captains the side from time to time and has really taken his game to the next level this season.

"And when someone of the quality of Sam Johnson is struggling to get a look in, then it just shows how well the other guys are playing in the midfield."

"The big players are really stepping up now”

As well as the centre pairing, 40-year-old Morrison expects back-row trio Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey and Matt Fagerson and second-row Richie Gray to be key if Glasgow are to get their hands on any silverware in May.

He explained: “I have been hugely impressed by the back-row. Rory Darge has only recently come back from quite a serious injury, but he looked like he’d never been away last week [against the Lions in Europe] when he made a lot of tackles and was named player of the match.

"Jack Dempsey’s carrying and work rate is very important while he seems to be able to get on the end of things and he is a real nuisance off the back of the scrum.

"And Matt Fagerson’s physicality is excellent, he is always involved. It has almost been like a rebirth for Richie [Gray] since he came back to Glasgow. He leads the lineout extremely well, gets around the park, has a great skillset and is someone that the younger players look up to.

"The big players are really stepping up now.”

“Ryan Wilson is someone that people will say is a club legend and rightly so”

This week, 33-year-old back-rower Ryan Wilson announced he will leave Glasgow after 12 years at the club in the summer.

He has so far made 220 appearances for the Warriors, only behind Rob Harley (267) in the club records.

Morrison and Wilson’s careers crossed and the former said: “I remember being at Glasgow when this young whippersnapper rocked up, but now he has been around the club an incredibly long time and he has been
important for Glasgow.

“When I was there, we shared some memorable times in a Glasgow jersey. He has had ups and downs, but it's testament to his character that he’s always come through and he is someone that people will say is a club legend and rightly so.

“He really is someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, he really does put his body on the line for the cause. He is uncompromising, but he has matured and he is a very good team man.

"Some success would be a great way for him to end his time at Glasgow and I wish him and his family all the best for the future."