A new year is beginning and Danny Wilson hopes the Glasgow Warriors will offer some degree of normality.
As it stands, at least historically, 2021 will begin with a PRO14 and 1872 Cup match against Edinburgh. The game at BT Murrayfield on Saturday was expected to be the second derby double-header game, but the game at Scotstoun today had to be postponed after 20 Glasgow players had to separate themselves, with four of them testing positive for Covid later.
This came after the cancellation of the Warriors’ Champions Cup game against Lyon a week ago, but the National Stadium game will go ahead as expected with no more positive tests in the past week.
It will be Wilson’s team’s first game in three weeks and Edinburgh’s first game in two weeks, but the Glasgow coach expects both teams to shed some habits and produce their normal high-energy fight.
“Both teams, when full strength, are two really strong sides who will give each other everything they’ve got,” he said. For me, derbies are the best and most exciting games. For me, all the derbies I’ve taken part in so far are most similar to international matches. The tension is high, inside and out you know each other, and that’s why the selection coaches are going to pick based on those games.
“That tingle, that rivalry, will always exist. The players will still know that they’re heading to the Six Nations camp after this game, where all of them are competing for international opportunities.
When rugby resumed at the end of last season, Wilson’s first two games as Glasgow coach were against Edinburgh, and after losing the first game 30-15, the Warriors won the second 15-3. Since then, the coach has had no issues, and this season his team won just two PRO14 games and was thrashed 42-0 by Exeter Chiefs in their only Champions Cup game.
As Glasgow was almost at full power, the defeat was all the more humiliating as Wilson was able to use the Scottish internationals who were absent during the Autumn Nations Cup.
He expects his players to have learned the lessons of that one-sided game three weeks later, although he points out that it is far from perfect not to have played a game since.
We’re going to be happy to get back on the pitch and repair the errors we made in the game in Exeter. We had the [international]guys back for four or five days prior to the Exeter match. What you want is a chance to work with them, but sadly we haven’t had that time, we’ve been ten days away from them.
“So this week is an important week. We need to come back down to earth quickly and try to improve some of these things. Am I naïve enough to think we can do all that in one week? No, probably not. It’s going to take a little bit of time. Edinburgh is probably a game ahead of us in that regard, but they took a couple of guys off in that game [the Champions Cup win over Sale Sharks].”
Wilson is hopeful Richie Gray will be able to play again after sustaining a concussion, while Gray’s second-row partner Leone Nakarawa is possibly two weeks away from a recovery after suffering a knee injury.
Wilson said, “Richie is progressing really well and I’m hopeful,” Since I know how these things can change, I can’t tell for sure, but he’s in the best form he’s been in for a while, so I hope he’s around, if not available for this game.
“More of an outside chance, Leone is. In order to improve it, he also needs a little bit of time to heal from his knee. I met him on Wednesday, and he’s certainly making progress, but slower than we had anticipated.
“Now he’s working hard, let me put it that way. He came back [from the Fiji lockout]and had a lot more to do than we thought would be the case. Our medical staff is working extremely hard with him, and we all want to see him on the field.”