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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# growth mindset
Leinster and All Blacks the role models for Townsend's Warriors
The Scottish side host Ulster in the first Pro12 semi-final tomorrow night.

GREGOR TOWNSEND HAS been doing things a little bit differently since taking over at Glasgow Warriors in 2012.

Having led the Scots to a Pro12 semi-final in his first season in charge and then helping them into the final in 2014, when they lost out to Matt O’Connor’s Leinster, it appears that Townsend’s way is working.

Gregor Townsend Ryan Byrne / INPHO Townsend was named coach of the year at last weekend's Pro12 awards. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The former Scotland and Lions out-half is a man who thirsts for improvement, whose ‘growth mindset’ motivates everything he does. That philosophy has permeated every fibre of the Warriors in recent years.

Trophy success now appears to be a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ for the Glasgow club and after topping the regular season Guinness Pro12 table, the Scots look forward to a home semi-final against Ulster tomorrow evening [KO 19.45].

Townsend would be loath to accept wholesale credit for the Warriors’ rise any more than his fellow coaching staff and the playing squad, but there is no doubt he has been the leader of a cultural shift, one that’s been built on solid pre-existing foundations.

Bill Walsh said that “champions behave like champions before they’re champions” and those words ring true with Glasgow. Not in the sense of posturing pride, but more so that they are utterly focused on the processes that will lead to victory.

His knowledge of the game is second to none,” said club captain Al Kellock. “He studies the game and he encourages you to learn as well. A lot of the things that on the outside maybe look like they’re easy are worked on incredibly hard.

“Not only that, the way he’s developed the older guys, such as myself, but especially the guys like Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, who for me is one of the best wingers in the league.

“Gregor has had a massive part in bringing him on. He’s been fantastic for the club.”

82-times capped Townsend didn’t rush headlong into coaching immediately upon retiring from playing in 2007, instead showing a typical intelligence in learning from fields outside professional sport as well as travelling to other countries to study different methods within the oval game.

winningscotland / YouTube

A daring, inventive player himself, Townsend moved into the national team coaching set-up before gradually working his way up towards the Glasgow job.

Ever since, he has had the Warriors playing some of the most attractive rugby in Europe. Most importantly in what is a professional world that demands results, the attractive means have largely led to positive outcomes.

“Before I came into the job, the teams I looked up to as role models were Leinster at club  level and the All Blacks at Test level and those teams move the ball,” said Townsend at a Pro12 event last weekend. “If you really want to win the big games you really have to have an all-round game.

If we were to score five tries but lose because the defence was poor or loose or undisciplined then we’’d change the way we play. We do change from game to game and we believe it will put us in a position of winning.

“Now there can be more mistakes when you try things. As long as they are mistakes that are pushing the boundaries or plays we can learn from, rather than sloppy mistakes, then we’’ll continue to improve.

“You don’’t win games unless you have a very good defence and we put a lot of pride in our defence and a lot of work into it. We do a lot of ball work and skill work so the attack will tick along, but we make sure we’’ve a very good defensive game first.”

The end-of-season play-offs might not seem the most ideal place to be learning lessons, and Townsend will hope that takes place in the form of winning in the next two games, starting with Ulster tomorrow night.

33-year-old Kellock, who will retire at the end of the season, admits that even he is learning new tricks from Townsend.

Pictured with his award for Guinness Pro12 Coach of the Season is Gregor Townsend from Glasgow Warriors Townsend with his coach of the year award.

“I’m just continuing to learn, in all aspects. A lot of that is leadership as well, never taking anything for granted, always trying to improve yourself and improve the club,” said Kellock. “I’ve really enjoyed working with him for the last three years.

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“He obviously kept me on as captain after I’d done it before he was there. He’s also brought the best out of our squad. We’ve used 52 players I think this season, that was unthinkable five or six years ago in Glasgow.

“We wouldn’t have had 52 players you could have called on. Even when you’re not selected, you’re still doing exactly what you need to do to be as good as you can be when you get the call again.”

It’s quite clear that Townsend’s modus operandi has percolated entirely down into his playing group; they are now cut from the same cloth.

There’s a genuine hunger for the club’s first major trophy, but even if that doesn’t prove the case Townsend and his Warriors will simply turn up again next season looking to learn and improve, learn and improve.

I think it’s good to have that urgency; that shows players actually want to win something,” said Townsend.

“It was really disappointing to have lost the semi-final two years ago just up the road [in the RDS, when they were beaten 17-15 by Leinster in a thrilling game] and not to have played to our best in the final last year.

“I was very disappointed for the group  that we didn’’t get to the quarter-finals of Europe this year because we put a huge effort into that Bath game and just came up short.

“There’’s a reason why the players come into work and it’s ultimately to be at the top  of the table and win a trophy. It’s great that there is urgency. If we aren’’t to win it this year then I’’m sure we’’ll work even harder next season.”

Originally published at 08.30

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