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Sodden pitch leaves Fusaro high and dry

IT is hard to imagine Chris Fusaro venting his frustrations by going home and kicking the cat but, if ever the family feline was in danger of being splattered across the living room wall, Wednesday evening was probably the time.

As infuriating as it was for fans of Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh that the second leg of the 1872 Cup was postponed because of a waterlogged Scotstoun pitch less than an hour before the scheduled start time, the experience was all the more maddening for the 24-year-old Fifer. Fusaro had not started a game for almost a month and, after a series of setbacks, it would be something of an understatement to say that he had something to prove.

In October, Fusaro had been one of five uncapped players named in Scotland's autumn Test squad, but Scott Johnson, the interim head coach, subsequently made it clear that he had much work to do before he could be considered for a place in the national side. Then, in Glasgow's Heineken Cup meeting with Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park in early December, Fusaro suffered the ignominy of being replaced before half-time as Warriors struggled to match their opponents at the breakdown.

The flanker's rehabilitation appeared to be well under way in his 20-minute cameo as a replacement against Edinburgh in the first 1872 Cup match at Murrrayfield last week. Alongside a fellow substitute, Josh Strauss, Fusaro transformed Glasgow's forward play, turning what looked like certain defeat into a 20-16 win.

That display earned him not just a place in the starting lineup for the return match on New Year's Day, but the captaincy as well. Fusaro had a point to prove, and he was well up for making it at Scotstoun. Hence his disappointment at having the opportunity whisked away just as the adrenaline was kicking in.

"It's very hard to take, especially with it being the 1872 Cup," said Fusaro. "Everyone wants to play in the big derby games. It is just very frustrating because all the boys were ready to go, the mindset was very good and we felt very confident. We had a few things to put right, so it's very frustrating.

"At Glasgow we haven't been at our best. There's no point beating about the bush on that, but beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield was a step in the right direction. We haven't lost on the road in the league yet, so it was good to keep that going as well."

With Roddy Grant, the Edinburgh openside, in the process of making a persuasive case for an international call-up with his performances recently, Fusaro could have made the selection issue even more intriguing had he maintained his Murrayfield form at Scotstoun. All of which must have added to his frustrations, but his thoughts had been more concentrated on club than country ahead of the game.

"It is the best opportunity you get to go against your opposite man vying for that jersey," acknowledged Fusaro. "But first and foremost, with Europe probably not on the cards any more, our aim at Glasgow is to get silverware in the league. That's what we are focusing on now.

"It was more for Glasgow than me. Our performances have not been up to scratch, so it's just about doing it for the team at the moment. We have to draw together collectively. The more we play as a team I think our performances will get better."

As Glasgow's planned meeting with Benetton Treviso two weeks ago also fell victim to their pitch's inability to cope with west of Scotland weather, the club now faces a fixture pile-up towards the end of the season. That might benefit Warriors in terms of having all their Scotland players available, but they face a brutal final stretch to the season if they are to win a place in the play-offs.

None of which would arise had the redevelopment of Scotstoun a few years ago also included the installation of a 3G playing surface, but that possibility was ruled out by the fact the municipal stadium is also used for athletic field events. Some rugby traditionalists are also firmly opposed to artificial surfaces, but Fusaro is an enthusiast.

Ironically, it was at the Arms Park last month - on one of the bleakest evenings of the Scot's career - that he became a convert. "We had a run on it the night before and it is not bad at all," he said of the Blues' much-admired playing surface.

"You think you're going to get carpet burns on your knees, but you don't. It was good to play on, and it produced fast rugby."

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