STUCK at home this weekend watching the action on TV as the top teams in Europe – three French sides and Leinster of Ireland – battle it out in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup, the Glasgow Warriors squad will be deeply frustrated that they have not had an opportunity to get back out on the playing paddock so that they can exorcise some of the demons of their woeful performance when losing 46-19 to Benetton in the opening round of the Rainbow Cup last Saturday. 

While three late tries – after Benetton had started to relax – saved Warriors from a humiliating whitewash, there is no escaping just how bad the performance was against a team which had only managed two wins in 18 previous outings this season. Head coach Danny Wilson admitted he was shellshocked afterwards, and at a loss as to explain how his team could play so badly. Inevitably, his suitability for the job he took on last summer after two unspectacular years as forwards coach of the national team is now under the microscope. However, Warriors’ co-captain Ryan Wilson (no relation) has jumped to his boss’s defence. 

“From the off, especially in the early months, he’s had to deal with all the Covid stuff,” said the player. “It’s tough for anyone to step into those shoes with everything that was going on, and with the hand he’s been dealt in terms injuries and international players not being around, it’s been blow after blow. 

“I think you’ll see a lot more next season of where he wants to go with the squad that he’s building and the signings that are being made.  

“That result last weekend ultimately comes down to the players on the field. The preparation was really good. People start pointing fingers at the coach, but Danny is doing a good job here. We didn’t represent that at all on the field last weekend. 

“The last five results we’ve won three and had the Montpellier game that got away from us a bit with decisions and cards. The last game came out of nowhere. You get those sometimes.” 

Wilson is quick to point out that labelling the Benetton game as an outlier should not be interpreted as evidence that the team and management have failed to face up to their own failings. 

“We’ve had to take a long, hard look at ourselves – we had a really good meeting on Tuesday morning, which was player-led because ultimately it was down to those 23 men who were on the field. We went through it all, played footage for about 60 minutes, and it came down to poor decision-making and basic skill errors which can be fixed,” said Wilson. 

“You have to be really honest in that situation. Nine times out of 10 you’ll have the player who made the mistake putting up their hand up to it, but if they don’t then there’s no doubt someone else will bring it up and ask: ‘Right, what were you doing here?’ And they’ll know it’s not acceptable. 

“It’s like a family really. It’s tough on the new guys who have to learn how to deal with it. We had a lot of young guys out there at the weekend and hopefully they learn a lot from that experience. They need to know that’s not acceptable and have that feeling inside them that they never want to go through that again. They’ve had good learnings from that.” 

The good news for Warriors is that they now have as good an opportunity as they could have hoped for to bounce back, with their great rivals Edinburgh providing the opposition next Friday night at Scotstoun. A win for the home team will secure the 1872 Cup for the first time since 2017. 

“We have to make sure we use that Benetton defeat as fuel for this tough derby match,” said Wilson. “We won’t struggle for motivation against Edinburgh, and it will be a good one for us to gauge where we’re at.  

“You would hope guys would be chomping at the bit to get involved in this one. We can refer back to the Benetton game and underline the fact that that doesn’t happen again to us this season.” 

Warriors expect to have openside flanker Thomas Gordon back from injury on Friday, while second-row Scott Cummings is touch and go following the hand injury he sustained playing for Scotland during the Six Nations. No 8 Matt Fagerson and stand-off Adam Hastings are still a few weeks away but both are hopeful of playing at some point before the end of the campaign.