Recruited to help set the tone that the club’s coaches are hoping can help Glasgow Warriors close the gap on the best in the sport, Callum Gibbins offered an example of what they are aiming for as he assessed the performance that secured them a PRO14 home semi-final.

Having captained the side to that 35-22 win over Connacht in which what was in every sense a bonus point secured within three quarters of an hour’s play, the Kiwi flanker was entitled to feel satisfied with the evening’s work against the 2016 PRO12 champions.

Instead, however, he is paying close attention to what happened after that point, as Glasgow spent much of the remainder on the back foot defending their line.

“I think that second half, looking back at the game there, us leaders and myself personally could have handled situations a bit better,” he said.

“We were starved of the ball quite a bit in that second half and when we got the ball maybe we could have played a little bit differently. I think because we didn’t have much of it we tried to over-play and then we gave the ball back to them, got stuck down there again and it all sort of spiralled into a couple of yellow cards. Maybe, personally I could have dealt with that as a captain a little bit differently.”

In saying so he was embracing criticism in the way that fellow Kiwi Jason O’Halloran, Glasgow’s backs coach, suggested homegrown players must learn to do when saying this week that Scottish rugby is 20 years behind New Zealand in terms of the mental side of the game.

Gibbins initially led by example in terms of demonstrating how the team’s management, led by yet another New Zealander Dave Rennie, wanted the Warriors to start going about their business as they look to move beyond PRO12/14 competitiveness and finally make the breakthrough in Europe that has been beyond them.

“The mental side of the game is huge,” agreed the flanker who was voted the club’s player of the month in each of his first two months at Scotstoun after making his debut against the Ospreys on the second weekend of the season last September.

“Throughout my career as I get older, you learn to deal with situations better and it’s not just a physical game anymore, you’ve got to deal with pressure and, with the finals coming up, we’ve got to take that on our shoulders and carry that and play well under those circumstances. The mental side of the game’s huge coming to the end of the season, so we need to grow our game in that sort of area as well.”

Arriving from Wellington Hurricanes in his 30th year, there are echoes of Todd Blackadder’s impact on Frank Hadden’s Edinburgh in the early days of Scottish professional rugby in the responsibility Gibbins was quickly given when asked to stand in for club captain and fellow back-row forward Ryan Wilson, initially when he was on Scotland duty and more recently while he has been out injured. 

“I was a little bit surprised when they called me in to be captain in Ryan’s absence, but I was happy to do it. It’s a great honour to captain the side and hopefully I can keep doing it well,” he said.

“I’ve been captain of different sides throughout my career, so it’s not 
a new role for me. Coming to a new place, it was a little bit daunting after just a few months here, though, but I am pretty familiar with the role.”

It is telling, too, that having initially been given that additional responsibility so soon after arriving, he suffered hamstring damage which required surgery in December, keeping him out for three and a half months, at the end of which the status he has already acquired within the group saw him immediately reinstalled as captain, his mindset reflected in the way he has drawn something positive from that lengthy lay-off in the context of the new environment he has been adjusting to with a punishing September to May schedule. 

“We play a similar amount of games in New Zealand, it’s just split over two different comps, whereas here both comps run at the same time. So, it’s different but we’re rugby players and we love playing rugby, so we can’t complain too much,” Gibbins observed.

“It’s a long season but with the international guys going in and out it breaks it up a little bit. I had an injury there for three to three and a half months which sidelined me for a little bit, which is probably good in some respects in getting my body right. So, it’s been very enjoyable. I’m loving where I’m living and loving Scotland.”