From Galway, to Cardiff, to Bloemfontein with a few rewarding trips back to base, Glasgow could not have responded better to the way in which new coach Dave Rennie placed his emphasis on results above all else when he arrived at Scotstoun.

Six wins in four different rugby nations in hugely varying conditions from a typically wet and windy visit to Connacht on the opening day of the Pro14 to last weekend’s first competitive visit by one of the Scottish professional team to South Africa, they have taken on and handled an array of challenges.

In many ways, however, this weekend is when we will get the first evidence of how much of an immediate impact Rennie has made. Stringing wins together in the domestic Pro14 has, after all, become relatively standard practice for Glasgow over the years, but Europe is quite a different matter.

In the 22 years since European competition was initiated Glasgow teams have qualified from their pools just twice and they have never won a knockout match.

Last season brought something of a breakthrough when they reached the quarter-finals, but it came at the cost of their Pro14 form as they failed to reach its knockout stages for just the second time in the eight years since play-offs were introduced.

Having already gone a long way towards ensuring that there will be no repeat of that in the Pro14, Rennie now has to find a way of maintaining progress in Europe, albeit the challenge could hardly be any tougher.

In the weeks to come they must meet three time European champions Leinster and, in back-to-back clashes in December, a Montpellier side that is going well in the French Top 14 and could hardly be better briefed on the strengths and weaknesses of the current Glasgow squad since the man now in charge of them is Vern Cotter, the former Scotland head coach.

However on Saturday they face what may be the toughest fixture of the entire campaign when they visit Exeter Chiefs, the current English champions who are currently second in that competition, a single point adrift of European champions Saracens.

The question must now be whether the scale of what they have already dealt with will serve them well, or will have drained them. This next fortnight will be a true test of the mantra that has so far served them so well according to Sam Johnson, Rennie’s fellow antipodean.

“What Dave and the rest of the coaching staff has instilled this year staff has instilled this year is a bit of brutality,” said the Australian-born centre.

“So going into games I’ve got three words I try to think of and that’s opportunity, brutality and accuracy. It’s about getting the work-rate around the park and I think it has gone alright so far.”

That is something of an understatement since they stand alone in Europe’s three major leagues this season in having won every match they have played.

It is clearly a record their coaching staff were proud to defend since, with European competition looming and five wins already secured, there was a case for resting key players last weekend given the way the fixtures had worked out.

Now, though, they can draw additional confidence for the battles ahead from having come through adversity in what was the best possible way as a late Rob Harley try secured both victory and a bonus point win against a side Johnson admitted had, even by the standards of the modern game, looked like ‘giants’ when they initially confronted one another.

“It was a tough game but the boys just kept working for each other,” said Johnson.

“I suppose the intensity we play at was not something the Cheetahs were used and I think that worked in the end.”

In many ways, then, it was the ideal preparation for what lies in wait this weekend when they head to the west country to take on a team that has not lost at home in 11 matches.

“They’re Aviva Premiership champions from last season so they are going to play with a real intent, but we’ve just to go out there and match them – even beat them – in the first 20 and continue on,” said Johnson.

“It’s those same three words, every weekend, but this is our first opportunity in Europe and everyone is buzzing for it. It’s going to be a big week, so we go out there with the opportunity and the brutality in the tackle area and the accuracy in our attack.”

HeraldScotland | Sport

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