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Mission improbable not yet mission impossible

Let's call it Mission Improbable.

Pat MacArthur is eager to put on a show for the Warriors supporters
Pat MacArthur is eager to put on a show for the Warriors supporters

The arithmetic of Pool 2 of the Heineken Cup still allows for the possibility that Glasgow, rooted to the bottom of the group, could yet qualify for the knockout stages, but the reality of their situation is that they will have to win their remaining three games - most likely with bonus points as well.

If the scenario looks grave on paper, it looked far worse on the artificial surface at the Arms Park last Friday evening when the Warriors went down 29-20 to an understrength Cardiff Blues side. Against a pack shorn of the services of Sam Warburton, Bradley Davies and Gethin Jenkins, Glasgow should have had the upper hand, but the hands that played a more significant part all belonged to those Blues players who ripped the ball away from their Scottish opponents with almost unbelievable ease.

Small wonder that the focus of Glasgow's preparations these past few days has been on how they will hang on to the thing in the return match at Scotstoun this week. There was good news from Cardiff yesterday when it was confirmed that none of the injured trio will be back, but Glasgow's players will certainly not make the assumption that life is about to get any easier. However, Glasgow hooker Pat MacArthur is already relishing the contest to come. He came on as a replacement for starting hooker Dougie Hall five days ago. The indications are that those roles will be reversed at Scotstoun, and MacArthur is convinced that the result can be as well.

"We have massive belief in ourselves," said MacArthur. "We are a really tight squad, as you can see every week. Not only are we tight within the group, but we also have a crowd that comes out every week and generally believes in us. So we have to perform for our team and for the crowd. We have got to go out there and get the performance first and foremost. We must perform and push for a win, that is the goal."

MacArthur refused to be drawn on what specifically went wrong in Wales, preferring instead to highlight Glasgow's decent scrum and some good counter-attacking work. Yet tactical naivete combined with an inability to retain possession for more than a few phases doesn't really demand a lot of further analysis anyway. What is clear is that Glasgow have to tighten up in every area to keep their interest in the competition alive.

Will the return match be a revenge mission then? Not exactly, according to the player. "The best thing about double headers is that you get a chance to right the wrongs, to build on things didn't do that well and try to fix them," MacArthur explained. "You get another shot the week after, that is our biggest motivation. We are disappointed with the result last week but have chance a week later to go out and have a shot at correcting it.

"We do a lot of analysis every week. Win or lose, we will be in the next day analysing what areas were good and what we can improve. Nothing changes. We were in the day after the Cardiff game, and on Monday we were already looking forward to next week against the same team."

The disappointment of last week as heightened by the knowledge that Glasgow regularly get the better of Cardiff in the RaboDirect PRO12.

The Warriors won both matches last season and then kicked off the new campaign with another victory over the men from the Welsh capital. But while some teams seem to rise to the demands of Europe, Glasgow have more often wilted at that higher level. Last season, a home win against Northampton, clinched only with a try in the last move of the match, was their solitary success in the Heineken Cup.

Improving on that performance was one of Glasgow's stated aims at the start of this season. In the sense that they edged past Exeter in their pool game at Scotstoun in October, when they beat the English side 20-16, they have at least equalled last season's feat, but in losing to Toulon and Cardiff they have used up their chances in this season's competition already.

MacArthur said: "We have got to look within ourselves, our own team, about how we want to perform. It is a motivation for us that it is the Heineken Cup, Europe's biggest tournament, on our own pitch. That is the way we are looking at it, it is a massive game for us and we have to push on from there.

"We believe in what we can do. We can go out and take on the biggest teams and believe we still have a chance in Europe. We have to start this week with a big performance. We are disappointed that we never managed to put a really good performance in last weekend. Coming home, in front of our fans - we know we have sold more than 5000 tickets - we need to push on. That is our motivation."

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