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Glasgow Warriors, a side made in Scotland and built from girders

Almost two decades have gone by since a group of senior SRU officials set out a vision of professional rugby in Scotland.

Niko Matawalu breaks through the Munster defence during Glasgow's enthralling  semi-final victory at Scotstoun   Photograph: SNS
Niko Matawalu breaks through the Munster defence during Glasgow's enthralling semi-final victory at Scotstoun Photograph: SNS

They painted an image of Scottish sides taking on the best sides in Europe, in front of five-figure crowds and winning. On Friday it finally happened, as Glasgow Warriors squeezed past Munster and into the RaboDirect PRO12 final. Ah well, better late than never.

In fairness, we had a preview screening of that picture two years ago when Edinburgh found a way into the semi-final of the Heineken Cup, memorably beating Toulouse at Murrayfield before almost 40,000 fans. But hindsight has shown that feat to be a freakish achievement by a side who were toiling before and who have toiled ever since. The most heartwarming aspect of Glasgow's performance was not that they won, but that they were probably expected to do so.

Every team need a decent dollop of luck, and Glasgow's portion is measured by an injury list so short it is almost nonexistent. The rugby gods have clearly taken a shine to them, but it takes more than divine providence to put together a run of nine straight victories on consecutive weekends as Gregor Townsend's side have done. That sequence says as much about mental strength as the fortitude they have shown on the pitch.

But it also declares the Warriors of today to be a side of real substance. They have depth in their squad and an almost palpable sense of collective purpose. And just to add a parochial note to the mix, they also, quite literally, have a strong Scottish accent. Of the 15 who started against Munster, 11 were native-born Scots and three others - Sean Maitland, Peter Murchie and Tommy Seymour - were Scottish qualified. The one exception was Josh Strauss, who is now more than halfway through the residence period that will almost certainly end with a Scotland cap.

Those figures dynamite the notion that a Scottish club side could only become successful by trawling the world for players. And it is important because there is now a powerful connection between Glasgow the team and Glasgow the city. Like all the great Irish sides of recent times, like the great Irish side they beat on Friday, this is a team who know and are nourished by their roots.

Certainly, Glasgow has seemed a far better nursery ground than Edinburgh for aspiring Scottish players. In quick succession, they have brought through Stuart Hogg, Chris Fusaro, Alex Dunbar and Jonny Gray, turning all of them into Test-ready talent. Given the hired-and-rapidly-fired career trajectories of so many young players who have signed on, and then off, at the other end of the M8, it is clear that the SRU, owners of both sides, need to look carefully at why that contrast exists.

Finn Russell is just the latest of a line who have found that boarding the train at Scotstoun is the best way of getting to the Test rugby terminus. Given the authority he showed as he ran Glasgow's show at fly-half on Friday, it is staggering to consider that the 21-year-old was playing club rugby for Ayr just a few short weeks ago. In that time, though, he has leapfrogged both Ruaridh Jackson and Duncan Weir in Glasgow's play-making pecking order, and a Scotland cap is clearly now a question of when, not if.

Townsend knows a good fly-half when he sees one, and he also knows good value when he has a player who can slot in at inside-centre as well. "Finn is very composed," said the coach. "He's exceeded all our expectations in terms of being able to start for us at 12 - and doing really well - and now at 10. He's played away at Leinster and away at Munster and now in a semi-final and going up against one of the top four teams in Europe this season.

"He is a games player. If you put him into that environment where there is a game going on he comes out his shell. He talks a lot more than he would do at training or team meetings. You hear him organising the forwards, he loves that environment, and it's great that he's playing so well."

Of course, playing well is no guarantee of re-selection. In the nine-match winning streak, Townsend has not once handed the No 10 shirt to the same player two weeks running. At the sharp end of the season, and with a two-week break for recovery, it is probably fair to expect fewer changes to the side for the May 31 final than has been the norm with Townsend, but the element of surprise has been a powerful weapon for Glasgow this season and it may well come into play again.

"We'll have a fresh look," said Townsend. "We'll look at who played well and we'll look at the opposition too. I'll be leaning a lot on [defence coach] Matt Taylor because he was one of the Queensland Reds teams that won the Super Rugby title. I'll be interested to find out what they did between the semi-final and the final.

"I think the guys that started played so well that they'll obviously be in the mix again, but the bench guys put their hands up. There were also a couple of guys unlucky not to be selected, so they may well come into the side. It's a very good position to be in."

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