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Big night for Morrison as Glasgow gamble on centre

Graeme Morrison's imposing presence was once one of the most reassuring sights in the Glasgow Warriors midfield, but the international centre's selection for tomorrow's meeting with the Ospreys now looks a major gamble by the club's management.

Morrison has not featured for seven weeks. Picture: SNS
Morrison has not featured for seven weeks. Picture: SNS

The 30-year-old has made just five starts in a season so injury ravaged he is believed to be considering his future having not, so far, been offered a new contract, He last pulled on the No.12 jersey in January and has not featured at all for seven weeks.

Yet with Gregor Townsend, the head coach, desperately seeking a way of stimulating a reaction to last week's dismal effort against the Scarlets at Llanelli, Morrison finds himself in the unusual position of being selected to play in a match that is doubling as a tribute to his career.

He and his team-mates will take the field wearing badges which will commemorate the club's longest-serving player's 10 years and while Townsend said that had not been done specifically because of the need to heighten emotions, he is hoping it will contribute. "It's something we've looked at for the last few weeks," said the coach. "I think it's motivational for Graeme and the team, but we'd also like to show Graeme respect for what he's done and what he continues to do. He's been a great ambassador for the club and a great player. He's battled through injuries this year and performed really well."

Townsend made those comments while recognising that both players and management let themselves down horribly in Llanelli last Friday on a day when they could have secured their places in the RaboDirect Pro12 play-offs and maintained their place at the top of the league table,

"You can drill down and try to work out why it happened last week, whether it was the week's training, whether it was something you said, the feeling going out of the changing room, the first couple of actions in the game; there will always be something. What we have to get better at is working out how we snap out of that and how we impose ourselves on the opposition."

"The players are embarrassed and we're embarrassed as coaches that we didn't put up much of a fight down there. There are a number of emotional drivers you look at before a game, but we want to get back to the way we were playing, putting the opposition under pressure. We've looked specifically at how we might play against particular opposition, the weaknesses and strengths we can exploit and also that motivational aspect of putting our bodies on the line for 80 minutes.

"I believe it will be easy for the players to do that this week. It's our last game of the season . . . and we've fully responded to the crowd support in recent games and the crowd have reacted to performances."

The reality is that Glasgow have gone from top spot to outsiders for a home semi-final in the space of those 80 minutes at Llanelli and could now miss out altogether if they lose to the defending champions. That would be nothing short of unacceptable in a season in which they also failed miserably in Europe, losing their first five Heineken Cup matches.

The players know what is at stake, as Stuart Hogg, the 20-year-old who is fast becoming a senior figure in the squad, acknowledged yesterday. "We just did not turn up individually or collectively. It was pretty frustrating but we hope to make amends this weekend," he said of last week's match.

A cool customer who scored a try on his first Scotland start last year, he admitted the situation may be affecting the players. "Last week was just a minor blip because we were maybe getting a little nervous and uptight at where we are in the table and whether we can hold that," said Hogg. "It was a bit frustrating but the boys have drawn a line under that and are concentrating on this weekend."

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