Glasgow take to the field against Zebre tomorrow afternoon looking for precious league points and a morale-boosting victory before back to back Champions Cup fixtures against Leicester Tigers and Munster.
The Italian outfit are stuck fast to the bottom of the Guinness Pro12, a place they call home, without a win to their name this season so it’s a match that most pundits would class as an away banker, but back-row forward Ryan Wilson warns that unexpected hiccups can always occur.
“We got a sickness bug last year and it was horrific,” he says with feeling. “We did two games over there and there was a sickness bug that went round. We played Treviso first and then went over and played Zebre over ten days.
“It was during the whole trip, boys falling left, right and centre but I stood by my usual aloe vera juice and never got it. It’s good for you! I was fine, I never got sick.
“It’s a tough place to go and play. Zebre don’t have the best away record but they are a different animal at home. Look at the Connacht game when they went over there. They scored 20 points in the first half against Connacht and not many teams have done that. They are certainly a different animal when they are at home.”
That match had to be cancelled at the half-time break, thanks to a thunder storm which threatened life and limb, but Zebre were leading by 22-10 and they will feel that they should have broken their duck.
After losing two of their opening five league matches Glasgow can’t afford another slip at this stage of the season, especially before the Champions Cup kick-off next weekend.
“First and foremost this game is massive,” argues Wilson. “We’ve got to win this, but there is that little bit in the back of your mind that you want to being going into Europe with a good win under your belt and things starting to click. We will have that in our minds I am sure.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hard to focus because the league is a massive part of what we have to do this year. We want to make sure we are in that final again and we want to win this league again.
“As important is the European Cup is, we have to go out there and beat Zebre. We have had a couple of losses under our belts before the Dragons so we want to get on a good roll. We know this is going to be a tough game but it’s somewhere we can definitely have a good win that will kick us into Europe so that’s the first thing for us.”
Glasgow have not quite clicked yet this season although at least part of the problem is a long injury list which has left head coach Gregor Townsend scrabbling for locks, not that Wilson is going to volunteer in a crisis. The breakaway has played six, seven and eight for Glasgow but he draws the line at a move into the second row of the scrum.“There will be no chance of me getting in there,” he says. “Straussy [Josh Strauss, pictured right] is the one in the boiler house before me so I’ll be pushing him in there. There is no chance of that.
“There has been a lot of chopping and changing with some new boys stepping up. Lewis Wynne has done fantastic since he’s come in, he’s played really well, and obviously [18-year-old] Matt Fagerson again, a young guy that has come in and had an opportunity and it’s great for the club to have young guys to come in and perform the way that they have.”
Away from the glare of the television cameras in Italy Glasgow can work on ironing out the small mistakes that have cost them this season, but no one doubts that the overall plan will remain in place: run Zebre’s big forwards off the park and fill their boots in the final quarter, so patience is required, as Wilson confirms.
“Patience is definitely the key. It’s multi-phase rugby. We have to make sure we get the three or four phases at the beginning right and then it’s trying to wear them down playing multi-phase rugby that will win us the match.
“They have a massive pack, scrum is going to be a key area, we have focused on that this week and scrums go on for about 20 seconds for some reason over there and we thought that would tire them as well. So we want to scrum them as long as we can and then chuck the ball about and be accurate in that as well.”
Wilson conceded he had picked Leonarto Sarto’s brains and with good reason. The Italian winger joined the Warriors from Zebre in the summer but brother Jacopo remains at the club and the flanker may be marking Wilson.