Glasgow’s Mike Blair expects Exeter to be step up in opposition


Glasgow coach Mike Blair expects a “step up” in opposition when the European Champions Cup starts this weekend.

Warriors have made a perfect start to the season, winning all six of their opening matches including four bonus-point wins, but travel to face Aviva Premiership champions Exeter on Saturday.

The visit to Sandy Park comes on the back of a tough trip to Bloemfontein at the weekend but Dave Rennie’s side battled altitude problems to emerge victorious in the closing moments, and Blair is under no illusions as to how big a challenge it will be.

“This is going to be a step up for us,” the former Scotland international said.

“We’ve had some tough games in the PRO14 no doubt, Munster at home and Cheetahs away at altitude were really difficult, but Exeter on their home patch is definitely a step up.

“I think they’re 11 games winning at home? It’s a really big challenge for us, but one the guys are really looking forward to.

“This is a group that loves those challenges, there’s no moaning behind the scenes and it [the challenge] almost adds to the occasion.

“Backs to the wall stuff playing Exeter away from home after a tough travel day, these guys are really keen and ready to go.”

Warriors travel to Exeter on Saturday before hosting Leinster at Scotstoun next week, but it is the clash with the English champions that Blair is focusing on, and he has praised their steady rise since promotion to the top flight in 2009.

When asked for their strengths, the Glasgow skills coach said: “They bond a team really well.

“They have players who have come in, Olly Woodburn for example, who has come in on the wing but didn’t really play much for Bath but is excelling for Exeter now.

“There are other bit-part players who have come in and gelled magnificently and are playing brilliant rugby there.

“They’ve worked their way up through the leagues, slowly up position-wise as well and now they’re a really competitive outfit and there’s belief in the team and that goes a long way.”

Meanwhile, full-back Stuart Hogg is approaching a return to fitness after undergoing a shoulder operation in the summer. Hogg took part in training on Tuesday, but Blair played down the significance.

“It’s touch and go over the next couple of weeks,” he said. “He’s just trying to put a bit of contact in at the moment and we’ll see how he reacts to that. He’s looking fit and he’s really keen to get back.”

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