DANNY WILSON isn’t getting ahead of himself. He has been around the block enough times during his club coaching career in Wales and his spell in charge of Scotland’s forwards to know that sporting fortunes can fluctuate dramatically in the blink of an eye. But he does admit to feeling pretty optimistic about how things are shaping up at Glasgow Warriors as the team closes in on their first pre-season match of 2021-22, against Newcastle Falcons at Scotstoun on Friday 3rd September. 

Given the circumstances of his first Covid-disrupted season at the club, Wilson is entitled to feel that he has survived a baptism of fire, and he now expects that experience to fortify his team for the challenges which lie in wait over the next 10 months. 

Warriors now have a core group of players who came through some tough times together to finish the season on a roll with four wins on the bounce in the Rainbow Cup. Better still, within that number there are several youngsters such as Ross Thompson, Rory Darge, Tom Lambert and Cole Forbes, who were given an opportunity which would not have come their way in a ‘normal’ season and showed that they were equal to the task. 

While Edinburgh ended their season in disarray –something that ultimately cost Richard Cockerill his job – Warriors were in a position to look forward positively, and have been further boosted by Wilson being given the budget for an aggressive closeseason recruitment drive which has brought in a dozen experienced pros, including seven internationalists in Duncan Weir, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Murray McCallum [all Scottish], Jack Dempsey [Australian], Domingo Miotti and Sebastián Cancelliere [Argentinean]. 

Perhaps just as significantly, Wilson believes that having two pre-existing squad members in Ali Price and Zander Fagerson involved in this summer’s Lions tour to South Africa will also have an important galvanising effect. 

“I think both those players have gained massive experience through just training, playing and preparing with that type and level of player, as well as going against the opposition they were up against,” he said. “I know Ali picked up the Test opportunities and played extremely well to establish himself as the best No9 on the tour, and it is a shame Zander didn’t get an opportunity at that level, but we also know that tightheads often mature when they are a bit older.  

“They are both going to come back with brilliant experiences, loads of learnings, and hopefully they will pass that on to our boys, and that will benefit everyone massively.” 

The two Lions are currently isolating and will be given four or five weeks off before being eased slowly back into action, but just having them around the place during training and in the build-up to matches will be a boost. “It's very important that those guys get some sort of break but also get some sort of pre-season, otherwise you just burn them out,” said Wilson. “They will be back before they go off again to play in the autumn internationals,” he added. 

With pre-season now in full swing, Wilson says he is delighted to have been able to release all his fit academy players to Super6 last weekend and believes that will help prepare them to play a role for Glasgow in the early part of the coming season.  

“The hard edge of getting games is crucial,” he explained. “You can do all the training you want but unless you are getting games you are not getting battle hardened and you are not improving under too much intensity and pressure, so those boys getting that opportunity with Super6 will be great for us.

“As of this week we are back up to around 30 players in training, but we are missing our three Argentinian boys who are playing in the Rugby Championship, we are missing the two Lions boys, we have a couple returning from operations and stuff like that, and Josh McKay is not in the building yet because he is still playing out in New Zealand. 

“So, there are a couple of positions where we are maybe going to be a little bit skinny in the first block of the season. For example, I think we’ll have to use one or two of our academy boys in the pre-season game against Newcastle Falcons, but that is a great opportunity for them, and we’ll build from there.”