World class professional rugby will arrive in the area this autumn when Glasgow Warriors move home to Scotstoun Stadium.
One of only two professional sides in Scotland, the Warriors represent the country at the top levels of European club rugby. The team plays in the Pro12 league along with Edinburgh, four top Welsh clubs, the four Irish provinces and two sides from Italy.
The multinational league was set up to allow clubs from the smaller nations to compete with those from England and France. It has been a tremendous success, with Pro12 clubs winning the Heineken European Cup five times since the league was established. Glasgow Warriors have set their sights on making history in season 2012/13 by reaching the knock-out stages for the first time.
European Cup pools were drawn yesterday (June 12) and promised to bring even more top class rugby to Scotstoun. Northampton Saints, who qualified for Europe’s premier competition by finishing fourth in the English Premiership, were among the sides drawn with Glasgow. Castres Olympique, third in last season’s French championship, are also in the group.
The pool became a group of death when Irish province Ulster was named as its final team. Although the Ulstermen finished sixth in the Pro12 league – two places below Glasgow – they had an amazing run in the Heineken European Cup, losing in the final to fellow Irish side Leinster.
Glasgow’s head coach, former Scotland international Gregor Townsend, described the group as “very exciting and very challenging”. He underlined the club’s ambition to surpass their previous efforts in the continent’s top competition.
Townsend said: “The quality of the teams we’ve been drawn against speaks for itself, but that’s always the case in the Heineken Cup. We strongly believe we can be competitive in terms of qualifying from the pool. Northampton have excellent pedigree in the competition, having won it in 2000 and reached the final as recently as 2011.
“They will be extremely tough opposition both home and away, but we showed against Bath last season that we can certainly live with the best teams in England. Ulster are another skilful, tenacious outfit and underlined their class in last season’s Heineken Cup. No doubt they’ll be looking to go one better and lift the silverware this time.
“Castres also have considerable experience of this competition, and you only have to look at how they’ve done in the Top 14, reaching the semi-finals, to appreciate that they’ll mean business. We know we’re going to have to perform to our absolute best in all our pool fixtures to achieve our aim, but we believe in our collective ability and are more than up for the challenge.”
With more season tickets already sold for the coming campaign than were sold last year, new coach Townsend has called on sports fans across Greater Glasgow to get behind the side. Moving to the refurbished Scotstoun Stadium from a groundshare deal with Partick Thistle Football Club – the Warriors bring world class sport to the doorstep of residents of Knightswood, Drumchapel, Clydebank and Yoker.
The club has championed the move, which means an integrated playing, training and administrative base for the first time in its history. After several years playing out of Firhill, Scotstoun provides improved facilities for players and fans. Stands on either side of the pitch will seat 5,000 spectators, but standing room behind either goal offers a more traditional rugby experience than was possible at a football ground.
Townsend added: “I’ve been to a large number of Glasgow games in my previous roles. I’ve always been impressed by the noise and passion the crowd produce and how they really engage with the players. The fans are extremely pro-Glasgow and make life difficult for both the opposition and the referee.
“I know from speaking to supporters that they share our excitement and enthusiasm about the move to Scotstoun, and we’re going to need every ounce of their backing once more if we’re to achieve something that’s never been done before. Northampton and Ulster will bring a good number of fans to the games as well, so all the ingredients are there for three fantastic Heineken Cup occasions.”
Season tickets prices start at just £45 for under 18s, £100 for students and pensioners, and £180 for regular adults. They include 14 matches – all 11 home games in the Pro12 league and the three in the European Cup pool stage. For more information, visit the club website.