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It was Ally MacLeod who famously declared that Scotland were off to Argentina to win the World Cup in 1978 – and we all know how that ended. The Fixture is never quite sure what to think when managers, players, supporters and sundry others associated with sports teams make grand predictions prior to a showpiece competition or big match. Is it really the best strategy to indulge in mind games prior to kick-off? The psychological approach was on show prior to Glasgow Warriors' appearance in the Challenge Cup final against Toulon on Friday evening.

Franco Smith, the Glasgow head coach, played down expectations around his own team while simultaneously focusing the pressure on their French opponents stating: “For them, the elephant in the room is the fact they have lost most of the Challenge Cups that they have been involved in.”

It was one of those statements that, as soon as The Fixture heard it, triggered the thought: “No Franco, don't do it.” Toulon have had a poor season by their standards but they are a side packed with internationals and needed no encouragement to enter the game harbouring a grievance.

Fast forward to Friday evening at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin and those worst fears that Smith was merely poking an already agitated bear with a point to prove came to fruition. Toulon surged into a 21-point lead after 26 minutes. By the hour-mark the score was 37-7 in their favour and you were left wondering just how much Smith had played a part in the destruction which was made to look marginally more respectable as Glasgow staged a late come back which nevertheless still left the scoreboard looking lopsided.

A day later, in the same Dublin venue, Leinster, so bullish and full of pomp in the run up to the Heineken Champions Cup final that they sacrificed their United Rugby Championship semi-final against Munster by fielding a weakened team, got their comeuppance against La Rochelle when their arrogance spilled over into on-field decision-making. Late in the game against the French outfit, they opted to kick for the corner and then refused to attempt a drop goal when trailing by a point instead embarking on an ultimately futile attempt to score a try. They were made to pay for their hubristic strategy as the French side clung on for a famous victory. In the aftermath, there were plenty of supporters of other teams – including those in Ireland – who revelled in their defeat.

I suppose the conclusion to puffing out your chest or cranking up the pressure on opponents is this: it all looks very clever and part of some overarching battle strategy when it works but, when you do engage in it you've got to make sure your players walk the walk.


Michael Beale's Rangers overhaul cranked up another notch earlier this morning with the departure of five club stalwarts. Alfredo Morelos – as revealed by Beale earlier this month – Ryan Kent, Allan McGregor, Scott Arfield and Filip Helander are all at the end of their contracts this summer and had been expected to move on while Steven Davis, whose deal is also set to expire, may remain at the club as he is nursed back to fitness.

A list of names has already been in circulation for some time about who is likely to arrive at Ibrox as part of Beale's summer overhaul. One of those players is Dujon Sterling, the Chelsea right-back. You'd imagine that the England Under-19 and Under-20 international, who has spent the season on loan at Stoke City, will be the long-term successor to club captain James Tavernier, whose own deal is set to expire next summer. Sterling is undoubtedly a good player and has proved his worth during loan spells at Coventry City, Wigan Athletic and Blackpool but one thing he is not is the goalscorer that Tavernier is. Few full-backs are, of course, but Sterling's career goal haul sits in direct contrast to that of Tavernier's weighing in at one goal (for England Under-19s) in 130 top tier matches.