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Townsend hopes that history repeats itself

It would take the combined com­puting power of a medium-sized country to figure out all of the qualification permutations at this stage of the Heineken Cup, but it is easy to suspect that Gregor Townsend has his mind on matters beyond the ­possibility that Glasgow Warriors could yet extend their interest in this season's European competitions.

Gregor Townsend is aware of the threats posed by Exeter. Picture: SNS/SRU
Gregor Townsend is aware of the threats posed by Exeter. Picture: SNS/SRU

While the Warriors' number-crunchers have apparently suggested that nine points from their remaining two Heineken Cup fixtures - they are away to Exeter today and at home to Toulon next weekend - could secure a place in the last eight of the Amlin Challenge Cup, Townsend seems more concerned with using the matches as a launch pad for a renewed challenge in the RaboDirect PRO12.

That, after all, is what Glasgow did last season. As disappointing as their overall Heineken Cup campaign might have been, a sensational 27-20 home victory over Northampton - it was clinched by a last-minute Peter Horne try which was beyond sensational - in their final group game set them up nicely for the powerful spring run that took them to the PRO12 play-offs.

"That was a very important game for us," said Townsend yesterday, just before he and his side set off on their long journey south to Exeter. "It was one of our best performances of the season and the way it finished obviously was fantastic for the supporters.

"It really kicked us on through that period of the Six Nations and afterwards, so it's similar. If you get a win against a top-quality team, it gives you the confidence that things are going well. We've got that memory of how that worked for us so [a repeat] definitely would be the aim."

Townsend has been criticised this term for chopping and changing his side, a pattern he acknow­ledged with his wryly self-deprecating announcement that the team to face Exeter would be exactly the same as the one he chose to take on Edinburgh last week.

The joke, of course, was that the last-minute cancellation of that match meant the players did not ­actually get any game time, although in a season when too many Glasgow performances have been disfigured by basic errors, some supporters might actually count that postponement as a blessing.

Townsend revealed that he has targeted the two Six Nations weekends in March as possible dates for Glasgow's rescheduled fixture against Treviso - it was cancelled because of flooding at Scotstoun five days before Christmas - although the Italians' may be less enthusiastic about those dates as they will pro­bably be more weakened by inter­national absences than the Warriors are likely to be.

Regarding the Exeter game, the fact Glasgow have beaten the English side twice this season - in the Heineken Cup match at Scotstoun in October and in a pre-season friendly in August - may not count for much, but at least it means they are going up against familiar opposition. Against that, Rob Baxter, the Exeter coach, has used the opportunity to rest a number of leading players, a clear sign that his own focus has already swung towards improving the side's standing in the Aviva Premiership.

"We know them very well," acknowledged Townsend. "We have spoken about them as individuals and looked at what they do as a team, so the players are very familiar.

"We had to play really well to beat them here in the Heineken Cup - that was one of our best performances of the year - but the week before they were 30 points up at half-time against Cardiff and they're a team that likes to play.

"They keep the ball the most out of any team in the Premiership. When you look at the stats, they kick the ball the least and are ambitious. And with this being their last home game in Europe they have mixed up the team a bit and we believe they will play even more, look to move the ball and give it a good crack."

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