Glasgow will relish 'step up' in European Champions Cup - Gregor Townsend

Stuart Hogg helps Tommy Seymour celebrate a recent try against Ulster
Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg are both likely to return to the starting side against Leicester

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend believes his players will relish a "step up" in competition as they prepare for their Champions Cup opener against Leicester.

The Warriors emerged from a testing clash with Zebre in Parma with a bonus-point win to move fourth in the Pro12.

Many frontline players missed the trip, leaving them fresh for Friday's match.

"The pleasing thing is we have played four away games in our first six Pro12 matches and we are a point off the top of the league," Townsend said.

"We probably haven't played our best in all those games so we know there is a lot more to come from this group."

The likes of Scotland lock Jonny Gray and wing Tommy Seymour - who had both played five games in a row - were rested this weekend, while half-backs Finn Russell and Henry Pyrgos are among others likely to return on Friday.

Glasgow's Champions Cup fixtures
Fri 14 Oct: H Leicester 1945 KOFri 16 Dec: H Racing 92 - 1945 KO
Sat 22 Oct: A Munster 1300 KOFri 13 Jan: H Munster - TBC
Sat 10 Dec: A Racing 1615 KO20/21 Jan: A Leicester - TBC

Townsend will alter Glasgow's normal preparations this week, taking his squad away to a hotel on Monday.

"We are going to spend some time looking at Leicester, a team the players don't know that well," he told BBC Sportsound.

"As coaches we have had a good look at them over the last week and this will be a real step up in terms of preparation.

Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend
Townsend's side have never finished better than third in their European pool during his tenure

"It is a new team we are facing, a higher level of rugby than we have faced week in, week out, and it will get us in a really good frame of mind and help with preparations over the next few days."

Glasgow have reached the Pro12 play-offs in each of Townsend's four previous seasons in charge, but they are yet to progress beyond the group stages of Europe's elite club competition.

They will renew acquaintances with Parisian giants Racing 92, who topped their pool last year, and Munster are familiar Pro12 foes, but they have not faced two-time European Cup winners Leicester for 16 years.

"It is a step up in competition - the best teams in England, France and the Pro12," Townsend noted. "Leicester and Munster have both won the competition more than once, and Racing were French champions last year.

"We know it will be the best team Leicester can pick on Friday. It will be a higher level than we have had to deal with over the last few weeks but it should bring the best out of our players."