IF YOU were to compile a list of the most creative and entertaining players to turn out for Glasgow in recent seasons, Niko Matawalu, Huw Jones, Adam Hastings and Leone Nakarawa (at least in his first spell as a Warrior) would all be well towards the top.
The fact that all four have left Scotstoun over the close season might therefore be a source of concern to some supporters as they wonder where the on-field inspiration is going to come from this season.
But Kenny Murray, for one, believes such concern is groundless. While not attempting to downplay the virtues of those now-departed stars, the assistant coach is confident that the team’s new signings will be just as capable of producing the goods.
“I’m really excited about the bit of X-factor we’ve got in the side this year with guys like Josh McKay coming in at full-back,” he said yesterday. “You watched him for Canterbury and it was line break after line break. Sione Tuipulotu as well at centre – he’s already shown in training what a real attacking asset he’s going to be.
“Sebastian Cancelliere has got real speed. He’s got great assets: his footwork, his speed, his ability to accelerate from zero to 20 in points of a second is just incredible.
“There are some cracking guys coming in who I think will be real crowd-pleasers at Scotstoun this year. Obviously people look at folk who have gone – guys like Adam and Huw – but the guys we’ve brought in look like they’re going to be real assets for us.”
Having said all that, Murray was quick to insist that entertainment should not be seen as a virtue in itself. Instead, addressing a theme that has been central to proceedings since Danny Wilson took over as head coach some 15 months ago, he suggested that a sizeable element of pragmatism had to be part of the Warriors’ make-up.
“Hopefully it will be a team that’s winning games first, before we worry about entertaining, but obviously the fans will want to be entertained. The key thing for us is to get a good balance, isn’t it? We want to be effective enough that we can beat teams at Scotstoun and away from home, and obviously what we’re trying for is to make sure there’s a good product on the pitch.
“That’s what we’re striving to do in terms of how we attack and how we defend, and as I said we believe we’ve got players this year who can do that. Across the board – not just in the backs but in the forwards as well.
“Guys like Jack Dempsey in the back row. He’s shown already what his ability is. He’s a cracking go-forward player, great footwork, he keeps the ball alive really well And then you’ve got guys like Rory Darge, Matt Fagerson, Ryan Wilson, all competing for back-row places. As far as I’m concerned the crowd will really enjoy seeing these players play at Scotstoun this year. And it’s great to have the crowds back in from the start of the season.”
Darge was a revelation when he was given his chance towards the end of last season after being released early by Edinburgh. Ally Miller, who agreed to make the same move at the same time, has yet to play for his new team – but when he does, according to Murray, he is likely to make just as big an impact.
“Rory showed last year in the games he played just how important he can be for us over the next couple of years to come. People may look at him and think he’s small, but he’s no smaller than guys like Hamish Watson, who’s obviously an outstanding player and played for the Lions.
“Rory has similar assets to Hamish. He’s got great fends, great footwork, he can get in behind defences really well. And what I love about him is just his workrate and his effort, and his desire to learn. He’s always on the computer. He’s been great.
“And I think Ally Miller, who has come along the M8 from Edinburgh, could be a revelation for us this year as well. He’s a fantastic player – big strong ball-carrier and he can play along the back row.
“Everything we’ve seen in training with Ally makes me really excited to see him play this year. He’s another powerful athlete. He maybe didn’t get the game time he’d hoped to get at Edinburgh, but I think he could be fantastic for us. You want to get your balance in your back row, but when you’ve got guys like Dempsey breaking the gain line, I think guys like Ally in particular will really feed off that and be devastating for us this year.”