Fiercely critical of the mindset that was prevalent within the Glasgow Warriors camp this time last year, assistant coach Jason O’Halloran believes he has seen a significant change in their capacity to issue and accept challenges that can make a fundamental difference to their chances in the Pro14 play-offs.

The New Zealander, who previously worked with the Scotland squad under Vern Cotter, broke with what has become convention in Scottish rugby when he questioned attitudes almost exactly a year ago, when contending that players were 20 years behind his Kiwi compatriots in terms of sports psychology.

In expressing uncomfortable truths in the way he did, the former All Black effectively invited scrutiny of cultures that have been created in an environment in which the need for positive public messaging had for several years seemed to over-ride all other considerations, his comments chiming with those of Richard Cockerill, who had made no secret of the need to bring about a cultural overhaul in the capital when he arrived ahead of the same season.

He did so at a time when Glasgow’s season was falling apart, their dominance in their Pro14 conference, combined with their standard failure to make a significant impact in the Champions Cup, having worked against them in the absence of urgency in matches from the midway point in their season and, even in the give and take between those on the field and those who have not been playing but have been assigned roles as water carriers, he has identified a considerable improvement.


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“I think we are a lot more mature,” O’Halloran reckoned. “In rugby you talk a lot about honesty. Running bottles, I have seen some guys really get stuck into them around some aspects of the game that I had not seen the previous season.

“That says to me we are mature enough to stab each other in the belly and demand performances out of each other. That was key to our victory over Leinster. Some of the talk in that forward pack was pretty confrontational around the demands from each other, particularly defensively and that bore out some good results and I was pleased to see that.”

It is clear that the way last season ended, their first under O’Halloran’s fellow New Zealander Dave Rennie, still grates with the coaching staff.

“Dave has talked about it a lot,” O’Halloran noted.

“It is knowing to keep that edge on it, knowing that we have to win. We qualified with a win over Connacht last year with five games to go. We found no real momentum after that.

“I don’t know if there was a lack of edge there because we had already qualified, but we did not front with anything like our best game. Before you know it, it is really hard to re-establish momentum when you lose it.

“Another pivotal game was away to Ulster and we did not get the job done there against what we knew was a quality team. After that we did not seem to have the belief to get back on the horse and Scarlets put us away pretty convincingly in the semis. I think we are a far more mature side now.”

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The contrast between the way Glasgow overran Ulster three weeks ago and the way the Irish province swept Edinburgh aside on their home pitch a week later, seems to back that up, while for all that the European and Pro14 champions held several players back ahead of their Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse last week, that aforementioned first defeat of Leinster in Dublin for eight years also offered encouragement.

“The Leinster game was an important game,” said O’Halloran.

“Although it was not there top team they had some pretty damn good players and brought on the British Lions front row at half time. They had (Robbie) Henshaw, (Jordan) Lamour, both Kearneys (Rob and Dave), so it was still a solid side.

“They brought on that (first choice) front row and we decimated them in the next scrum was a big turning point. It was a good boost for us.”

Even so, for all that there was an improvement on last season in the Champions Cup, they looked as far short of being competitive at that level as they had against Saracens at the same stage, the quarter-finals, as they had two years ago, while their performances in the festive derby matches, which mean that the 1872 Challenge Cup is not being contested this week, fuelled continued doubts about their capacity to cope when the pressure is increased.

That contributed to a record of having won just twice against their neighbours in the past 10 meetings, the way the teams match up against one another seeming to favour the men from the capital.

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For all that is at stake this week, with Glasgow needing to win to avoid a return to Dublin in the semi-finals, but Edinburgh looking likely to require full points just to have a chance of Champions Cup rugby next season O’Halloran accepted that there would never be any lack of competitiveness when the sides meet one another, but suggested that Edinburgh’s need for a bonus point may force them to shift away from the approach that has seen them repeatedly grind out derby wins.

“This game does not need any extra edge,” he said.

“It will be interested to see the tactical approach by Edinburgh. To have any chance you would think they have to be focused on four tries. Whether that means they slightly deviate from their game plan it will be interesting to see.

“We are pretty much expecting the same formula we cop every time from them which is a massive focus on set-piece, a real good kicking game and try to suffocate and frustrate us.”

As to what is required from the home team at Scotstoun, he reckoned that what needs to improve is not their gameplan but the way they go about implementing it.

“We need to play better,” O’Halloran said simply.

“We cannot afford turnover ball like we had in the past. In that first game we probably overplayed and ended up a bit frustrated. I don’t think there needs to be a huge tactical shift. We just need to do what we a lot more accurately and be better round the ABC’s of the game such as the setpiece, recycling the ball and tempo and playing in the right parts of the pitch.”