Glasgow Warriors skipper Ali Kellock couldn’t have been a happier man earlier this month when he helped his side beat Italian newcomers Aironi in the Magners League.
Why? Well, the answer is two-fold. Firstly, the inspirational second row made his comeback after undergoing knee surgery and secondly, he found himself surrounded by the new face of the Warriors.
With half-a-dozen senior players committed to Scotland in their November internationals, it was a game in which the Warriors’ youngsters got their chance to shine.
“The way some of the young guys have stepped up has been phenomenal. I think that Ruaridh Jackson and Duncan Weir at No10 will have a battle for a long, long time,” said Kellock.
“They’re both so young, but I’ve been really pleased with the way they’ve played. Not only that, I’ve been really impressed with the way they’ve started to lead as well.
“The situation has given opportunities to guys who may otherwise not have had them. Robert Harley at No 6 has been outstanding all season – a real find.
“I speak to Robert regularly and at the beginning of the season we sat down and talked about how, whenever he did get his chance, he would have to grab it. And his chance came very, very quickly and he was straight into the team. He has grabbed that chance and he’s done brilliantly well.
“Young Henry Pyrgos is another guy who’s come into the club and done really well. He’s got a great attitude and he trains really, really hard.
“That’s the pleasing thing and it can only stand us in good stead as we move forward.”
Glasgow Warriors beat Aironi at Firhill on November 5
The Warriors were in outstanding form last season, flying the flag for Scotland with a third-place finish in the regular Magners League campaign. Victories were registered over all bar eventual champions the Ospreys as Glasgow recorded their best ever-finish in the competition, and grabbed a place in the inaugural semi-final Play-Offs.
After missing the first seven games of the current Magners League campaign, Kellock finally returned to action at the beginning of November.
And while the campaign has been a more mixed affair to date, the giant second row is confident that the Warriors can still be in the hunt for silverware come the end of the season.
Not even the loss of international stalwarts such as Dan Parks and Kelly Brown, or injuries to Kellock, Chris Cusiter and Johnnie Beattie, have been able to dampen the competitive instinct of the Warriors, for whom the future appears to be in safe hands.
"We're at the wrong end of the table at the moment, especially in comparison to the season we had last year, but it will come right. I don't think we'll be a million miles away,” added Kellock.
"It's a tight league and everybody's beating each other so it's not as if there's four teams running away with it. If we can get ourselves back on track, we could be right back up there at the top end fairly quickly.
"We got a taste of the Play-Off semi-final last year and we enjoyed it thoroughly – we want to get back there. We've given ourselves an uphill battle but it's just a case of focusing on each game as it comes, instead of looking too far ahead."
Henry Pyrgos is one of a number of improving young Warriors
Kellock’s sentiments regarding the aims of the club and the role of the younger players in helping the Warriors achieve those targets are echoed by fellow Scotland forward Beattie, another of the contingent of international stars who have been missing in action for much of this season.
The 24-year-old was a standout performer for both Scotland and the Warriors last term but is currently recovering from shoulder surgery and is still awaiting his first appearance of the new season.
“There’s massive building to be done for us as a club,” said Beattie, who is Glasgow’s Magners League Ambassador.
“We reached the highest we’ve ever been in the Magners League last year. There’s a lot of young guys who’ve come in to replace people that have left the club and it’s about them getting the experience and the belief in themselves to take the club forward.
“That talent will come through. With young guys like Ruaridh and Duncan playing for the stand-off jersey – there’s massive competition there between themselves. They’re pushing each other on and it’s going to take young guys like that to help up us climb up the rankings."