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Gloves are off with Calzaghe in Scotstoun side's corner

AS they head into a tense final run-in to the season, who better for any team to turn to for advice on winning than a man who is not only a former world champion but one of the undisputed greats of his sport?

Alex Dunbar starts for Warriors seven days after Scotland's hammering in Cardiff. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS/SRU
Alex Dunbar starts for Warriors seven days after Scotland's hammering in Cardiff. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS/SRU

For Glasgow, the opportunity to gain some wisdom from Joe Calzaghe, the super-middleweight boxer who retired undefeated after 49 fights, was too good to pass up and preparations for this evening's home match against the Scarlets centred on a question and answer session with the ring legend.

"He was in Glasgow and visited a hospice," said Gregor Townsend, Glasgow's head coach. "Fergus Wallace [the club's business development manager] met him at an event and asked him to come down and see us. The guys loved it. What a legend to have here. He said he was at the Millennium Stadium last week; we didn't talk about that very much."

Glasgow certainly need all the tips on the art of winning that they can lay their hands on. With successive defeats threatening to derail their league campaign, even Townsend admits that, eight games from the end of the season, they will struggle to clinch a place in the RaboDirect Pro12's top two and with it a home play-off.

Where Townsend's side have an advantage is that of those remaining eight matches, six are at home, including the rearranged fixtures against Treviso and Edinburgh. If they can use tonight's match to re-establish the fortress mentality at Scotstoun it will go a long way towards making sure they do at least propel themselves back into the top four and gain a place in the semi-finals.

A lot, however, will depend on what sort of state of mind and emotion the returning internationalists are in. The Scarlets have included three in their starting XV who will still be on a high from Wales' romp against Scotland in Cardiff last week. Townsend has two Scotland players in his line-up - Duncan Weir and Alex Dunbar - who will be scarred from having been on the receiving end of that battering.

"We looked at everybody individually because they are big players for us," Townsend said. "They were pretty down after the game but are back here now and it is a different environment.

"We have a huge run of very important games to look forward to and any player involved in a defeat wants to play straight away. You don't get that opportunity all the time at international level, whereas you do with club games every week."

Inevitably, Townsend did not have a decision to make on Stuart Hogg, who picked up a three-week ban for his red-card charge into Dan Biggar of Wales, although the coach is certain the player can bounce back from the experience.

"Stuart has learned a very tough lesson about controlling his emotions; controlling his actions," Townsend said. "I'm sure he will use that in the right way to make sure it never happens again. It is part of the learning process for him, as it is for any player, when you have an incident like that, whether it is a mistake you make playing or one that leads to a sin-binning or red card. Stuart has had a tough week. He has had the reaction to the game itself - he is obviously very down about it - and having to go through the hearing itself would not have been pleasant.

"He just has to knuckle down now and use this three weeks to work on areas of his game physically and technically so that when he does play again he will be in a good state rugby-wise but also mentally."

Townsend does have a couple of players back from injury earlier than expected. Al Kellock, the captain, is ready to make an impact off the bench on his return from a torn bicep muscle and Sean Maitland, injured in the opening match of the Six Nations is also listed as a substitute.

Peter Horne, who had been expected to be out for the season is also coming back into the mix, having been given a 40-minute run with Stirling.

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