Flanker Ryan Wilson believes that last year’s breakthrough title win gives Glasgow Warriors the belief that the remarkable away team curse in Guinness Pro12 semi-finals can be overcome.
Wilson was an electric performer on that glorious Belfast evening in May last year when Munster were overwhelmed by a team emboldened by a belief their time had come and is aiming to help create another piece of history in Saturday evening’s semi-final showdown against Connacht in Galway.
Home advantage is a well-known phenomenon, even more so in rugby union than it is in the association code, but it is still extraordinary that, since play-offs were introduced in the 2009-10 season, not a single away team has made it through to the final.
Wilson is in confident mood, though, and stated: “We were the first Scottish side to win a title, so why can’t we be the first side to win an away semi?
“I believe that we can do that with the team we’ve got, with everything we’ve got here. We’re happy to go over there and really push them. It’s something we know we can do.”
Glasgow lost 14-7 to the same opponents at the Sportsground in the final round of the regular season but Wilson believes the squad will travel viewing the knockout rematch as a clean slate.
“I think you’ve got to refresh your mind a little bit and go at it as a semi-final, because that’s what it is,” said the 18-times capped forward. “It’s a huge game. It’s one of the biggest games the club has ever been involved in.
“You want to push into the final, and to win back-to-back titles would be an amazing achievement. So I think refresh our minds and make sure we attack it as it is, a semi-final.”
That’s not to say that Glasgow haven’t pored over every last detail of the recent loss in a bid to reverse the outcome and they can draw on previous experience that Connacht simply don’t have.
While the Irish province are in their first ever semi-final, the Warriors are there for a fifth straight season.
Last season also threw up a similar scenario when Glasgow played Ulster in the last regular round and then again in the semi-final. The difference is that those were at Scotstoun and the Warriors won both, but Wilson believes there are things to draw on from 12 months ago. “I think the team that will win is the team that has done the best learning,” he said. “Last week we were in all week and we looked at everything – what we did right, what we did wrong, where we could be better.
“So we’ve done a hell of a lot of learning and we’re not wanting to play the way we played when we were out there last Saturday. I’ve heard that the weather is meant to be pretty much the same, but that’s good for us, because we can carry on putting the ball in their half and trying to keep them in there.”
The flanker believes that Glasgow could have an edge in versatility over Pat Lam’s men, both in terms of style and personnel.
“We can play a number of different ways,” he said. “I think last Saturday we didn’t get to fire many shots at all. Their defence was outstanding: they kept coming up on us, putting pressure on. I think that’s one thing that maybe took us back a bit: we were shocked by their defence; it was on top of us.
“That’s something we can look to manipulate. If you’ve got a team that are flying at you like that, there’s definitely places you can attack. We’ll look at things like that.
“Being able to slot fresh players in is one positive of having such a strong squad. I think it’s 56 players we’ve used this year, which is an incredible amount. I’m not sure what Connacht’s is.
“It’s also competition for places. Everyone’s pushing each other here. We can slot in where we think we may need someone bigger, or different styles of attack.
“I’m not sure what Connacht will be thinking, but we’ll do everything we can.”