After the classic smash-and-grab raid mounted in turning over the Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 in Llanelli last weekend, a number of Glasgow players might have been forgiven for thinking they had booked their tickets to the south of France. Townsend, though, saw things rather differently.
Seven players omitted from the starting line-up at Parc y Scarlets have been brought into the team which will take the field against Toulon. "Everyone wanted to be involved in this one," Townsend said. "There were some tough choices and there are some disappointed players."
Chris Cusiter has a right to feel more aggrieved than most. The scrum-half had looked rejuvenated and close to his best again after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury but Townsend has given the nod to Henry Pyrgos instead. With Niko Matawalu retaining his place on the wing but more than able to cover at No.9, Cusiter does not even have the consolation of a place on the bench.
The choice of Pyrgos is, to some extent at least, driven by Townsend's preference for Ruaridh Jackson over Duncan Weir at fly-half. Jackson has been impressive in his outings this season, but he is still not a sufficiently reliable kicker for Townsend's liking. That being so, the kicking duties will fall to Pyrgos, who has apparently excelled in that department in training.
Townsend said: "That was probably the hardest decision of all. We have three excellent nines at the club, so somebody was always going to miss out. Chris has been playing really well since he came back but Henry was outstanding for us against Zebre a couple of weeks ago and his kicking ability gives him that extra dimension."
The most obvious Glasgow weakness against Scarlets was in the scrum, so the changes made in the front row are more easily understandable. Hooker Pat MacArthur and prop Moray Low have been dropped to the bench, their starting places going to Dougie Hall and Jon Welsh respectively.
Welsh seemed to be struggling for fitness at times last term but Townsend revealed the player's individual fitness programme over summer had got him down to his ideal fighting weight. "Jon worked really hard in the pre-season," said the coach. "Physically, he's probably the best he has ever been, with ideal muscle mass."
You can never have too much grunt, though, and Jonny Gray, at 6ft 7in and just a nudge under 19st, provides it in spades. Gray will make only his third start for Glasgow, taking his place in the second row alongside Al Kellock, with Tim Swinson moving to the blindside flank.
Swinson takes that berth from Rob Harley, another who drops out of the squad entirely. Like Cusiter, Harley is entitled to feel he has done little wrong but Townsend explained that he was thinking ahead when making that selection. "We have a run of big games coming up," he said. "We want Rob to be in the mix for those, so had to get a chance to rest at some point."
For what is likely to be a brutal physical battle, it is no surprise that Josh Strauss, now fully recovered from the head knock he suffered recently, has been brought straight back into the side, resuming his place at No.8 at the expense of Richie Vernon. In the only change ~ to the three-quarter line calf injury victim Sean Lamont drops out, with Tommy Seymour replacing him on the wing.
Lamont would have been named at centre in place of Mark Bennett, but the veteran failed a late fitness test so Bennett retains his place. Stuart Hogg's wrist injury means Sean Maitland continues at full-back.
The trip to Toulon is a poignant return visit for Townsend. His first experience of European competition was gained in the Provençal city 17 years ago when he scored one of Northampton's three tries in a 38-29 victory in the picturesque and wonderfully atmospheric ground that overlooks the city's harbour.
By tradition, teams playing at the Stade Mayol make a gladiatorial entrance to the arena, making their way through a sea of chanting fans around an hour before the game. Townsend admitted he had toyed with following the lead of Leicester, who arrived more quietly at the other side of the ground but decided that Glasgow should play their part in building the excitement.
"We're going in the front door," he said emphatically. "It's great for the players to experience things like that. When I was in France it was always one of my favourite places to play. It's a privilege to be there.
"You have to be excited by a game like this. It's a great stadium and a great occasion. Toulon have some of the best players in the history of rugby and you don't get opponents like that very often.
"But our guys aren't intimidated by any of it. This is something to relish, an experience to embrace."