Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend inspired by Leicester & Iceland for Champions Cup

Gregor Townsend became Glasgow Warriors head coach in 2012
Gregor Townsend became Glasgow Warriors head coach in 2012

If Gregor Townsend wants to pull off a Leicester City in European competition this season, he's going to have to do it against Leicester Tigers.

The Glasgow Warriors head coach was monitoring Wednesday's Champions Cup pool stage draw online as he travelled by train.

"Every now and again I'd lose reception and one of the assistant coaches would text to tell me who we got," he told BBC Scotland.

You could forgive Townsend for thinking they were playing some sort of sick joke when the names of Racing 92, Leicester Tigers and Munster flashed up on his screen.

Yet rather than trepidation at facing three giants of the European scene when the pool stages begin in October, Townsend finds inspiration in recent examples of overcoming the odds in football.

After reeling off his thoughts on three formidable opponents he maintains the Warriors "will absolutely relish" facing home and away, the 43-year-old was asked what he thought of Iceland's performance at Euro 2016.

"It's funny you ask that," Townsend said. "I sent an email to my assistant coaches today about Iceland. Not just Iceland, but the way Leicester City have played and the way Chile have played in the Copa America.

Glasgow's players celebrate their Pro12 title success in 2015
Townsend led Glasgow to a Pro12 title but European success has been harder to come by

"It is on the principles of effort, working hard on the opposition, knowing your roles as a team and doing all you can to win.

"We've seen this year that Leicester have outworked their opposition and Iceland have as well, as have Chile to beat Argentina two years running. You can transfer that over to other sports.

"When we win games it's because all 15 or all 23 of our players have outworked the opposition.

"We'll be playing Leicester, so maybe the football team will inspire us down there."

Glasgow - in the early years of professionalism - haven't covered themselves in glory on previous trips to Welford Road, losing a quarter-final play-off 90-19 (the joke was that if you said it quickly, it sounded like a draw) in 1998, their first year in the old Heineken Cup.

Further defeats - as Glasgow Caledonians - followed in the pool stages of the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 campaigns, though they did beat the Tigers in Perth.

'If can we deliver our best, we can definitely qualify'

Much has changed in the past decade since the Warriors brand was born, reaching the Pro12 play-offs for the last five years, and being crowned champions in 2015 a year after losing in the final.

But Glasgow have still never reached the quarter-finals of Europe's elite tournament, despite their recent domestic success.

"It's going to require our very best performances right throughout the pool stage," said the former Scotland fly-half, whose contract runs until the summer of 2017.

"We didn't do that in all six games last year. We know we've got a great group of players who can play excellent rugby, so if we can deliver our best performances in five or six games in the group stage then we can definitely qualify.

"We'll look closely at how we can get through. We won three games last year and three the year before. We need to get that to four or five to get through so as a coaching staff we know we have to do better. I'm really excited."

Racing 92 receive the Brennus Shield after winning the Top 14 in 2015-16
Racing 92 receive the Brennus Shield after winning the Top 14 in 2015-16

Townsend on Racing 92

Last season: Top 14 champions; European Champions Cup runners-up

"We know a lot about them, we played them twice last season. They've gone deep both in Europe and in the Top 14.

"I watched the Top 14 final a week ago and they played outstanding rugby and got a fantastic win against Toulon with 14 men for most of the game, so it shows you their intelligence and their strength in depth.

"If it is Racing 92 that Leone Nakarawa has signed for, then it will be great to play against him. He's a great player and friend of the club who's helped us achieve a lot of really good things over the last few years."

Australia fly-half Matt Toomua has signed for Leicester Tigers
Australia fly-half Matt Toomua has signed for Leicester Tigers

Townsend on Leicester Tigers

Last season: Aviva Premiership semi-finalists; European Champions Cup semi-finalists

"They've recruited really well ahead of the new season. Matt Toomua is one of my favourite players in world rugby; an excellent number 10 or 12 who played for the Wallabies last week against England.

"They've signed South Africa's JB Pietersen as well so have some experienced players. They're evolving their game and developed a different attacking philosophy last year that brought reward.

"It'll be great to play at Welford Road which is one of the great stadiums in world rugby. I didn't win there (when at Northampton) but it's a big pitch and it's well over 20,000 capacity now, so it will be a brilliant atmosphere."

Ireland full-back Simon Zebo is one of Munster's stars
Ireland full-back Simon Zebo is one of Munster's stars

Townsend on Munster

Last season: Sixth in Pro12; European Champions Cup pool stage

"They are a team who have always had a different level of focus and intensity when it come to European rugby.

"We know Munster well and we've had some great battles with them in the Pro 12[Glasgow beat them 16-15 in a 2014 semi-finals, and 31-13 in the final a year later].

"Last season we had some really close games against them; we lost by a couple of points [23-21] over there and they lost by a few points to us here [27-24]."