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'Big Al' set to lead his Warriors by example

Warrior (noun): One who is engaged in or experienced in battle.

Glasgow Warriors captain Alastair Kellock, or 'Big Al,' is one of those throwbacks to a distant day when all rugby negotiations were carried out over one simple mantra: Thou shall not pass -- when a backward step was a mini-defeat not to be repeated.

Kellock, 28, moved home from Edinburgh in 2008 to sign a two-year deal with a club with no detectable prospect of glory in its near future. He must have known something most others didn't.

The transfer coincided with smart dealings in the transfer market and a hand-in-hand rise in the fortunes of the Scottish franchise. The Warriors are now lodged at the apex of the Magners League.


The 20-times capped Scotland international knows the Warriors' League credentials will be put to the test at the home of the Heineken Cup champions.

"It is a huge challenge. Leinster have been consistently one of the best, if not the best, teams in the Magners League over the last number of years," he said.

"We know it will be a physical match. It always is for us. We know it will be difficult. They have a fantastic squad with quality players outside their first team.

"They have guys all over the park who have the ability to steal ball at the breakdown.

"It will certainly be a crucial area," he said.

"The contact area and the set-piece will also be important in earning a platform. We know Leinster are strong in these areas and we will have to match them."

In order for the Warriors to execute their game plan, they will have to cut out the ball-playing influence of Kellock's Scottish team-mate Nathan Hines.

It is a task easier said than done: "Leinster have also recruited well with guys like Nathan. He is a good all-round lock forward. He is very good at distributing to those around him.

"He rarely, when he is tackled, goes to ground with the ball. He is always looking to get his hands free for the offload. He does that well for Leinster and, obviously, for Scotland."

Glasgow have been here before. They stayed the course for three-quarters of the corresponding fixture last April until Leinster's cavalry from the bench produced four tries to seal a flattering 36-13 victory.

"We played well for 60 minutes and then Leinster scored some good tries. We were annoyed. We managed to compete for that length of time without being able to last out the game."

What is different this time around? "There is a difference in confidence. It comes from being top and from signing well. There is strength in depth we haven't had for some time.

"We have managed to keep the majority of our squad together and we have added to it through Chris Cusiter, Rob Dewey and DTH Van der Merwe.

"As well as that, a lot of the guys we had last year were quite young. They are a year older, a year more experienced, for what is required at this level.

"There has also been continuity on the coaching side. Sean (Lineen) has been great, especially in the past few weeks for the derby matches against Edinburgh. We have been able to play the type of rugby he wants us to play," said Kellock.

"We base a lot around our set-piece. We know we have to have a good platform. When you look at some of the backs we've got, they're extremely talented.

"There is a long, long way to go. We were in a very good position last year as well and we faltered. We have learned to take it each game at a time. We know if you look too far ahead you come unstuck."

The Warriors have jumped to the head of the league on the foot of two well thought-out wins over their national rivals Edinburgh, taking scalps at Firhill (25-12) and the notoriously difficult Murrayfield (22-15) last Saturday.

The general consensus is that the Scottish players have languished in the backwaters as the Irish have moved to the forefront of European rugby by winning trophies and building their support bases. It could be seen as a blow to morale.


Kellock has chosen to see it as a reason to believe: "It is an inspiration when you look at the numbers you get over there (Ireland). We have been growing steadily. There were over 8,000 at our home match against Edinburgh.

"We have to focus on building the support. The fans that are there at the moment are fantastic. Success breeds support," he said.

It is time for Glasgow to show the warrior spirit that can take the Scottish club out of the ordinary and into the position of serious contenders for the Magners throne. Their captain Alastair will lead.