On one level Ryan Wilson may be a tad disappointed with Saturday’s performance in Rome, the only member of the back row union not to bag a try! On the other hand the No 8 wasn’t even listed in Vern Cotter’s original Six Nations squad and he only got the nod to start the Italy game following a late injury to David Denton.
Thankfully the comeback kid produced one of his most dynamic and productive stints in a Scotland jersey and he is finally, three years after making his international bow, beginning to look like the player he once promised to be. When, exactly, did he know he was starting the crucial match?
“Dents pulled up a bit in the warm up the day before the game and I was told because I was on the bench to be aware of these things,” explains Wilson. “When I woke up on Saturday morning I was told. I was there [in Rome] two years ago when Dunc [Weir] did the drop goal [to win the game]. I was confident going into the game as I had been here all week with the boys. I was excited.”
Wilson was ever-present throughout Scotland’s World Cup campaign, until the Australian quarter-final when Cotter first experimented with twin Kiwi opensides Blair Cowan and John Hardie, but for reasons that where never fully explained Cotter unpicked Wilson for this Six Nations campaign while whistling up John Barclay from west Wales.
The veteran flanker insists that he is doing nothing now at the Scarlets he wasn’t doing before the World Cup when he was overlooked but Wilson at least implies that he has done some extras although he doesn’t go into the specifics.
“He [Cotter] spoke to me and said he wanted me to work on a few things with Glasgow,” Wilson relates. “He said I was very much part of the squad but get these things right and we will see how we go.
“When you are not involved with Scotland you feel gutted as you want to be part of it. You feel if you were in there you would be able to help but I was not able to. I had a good couple of weeks at Glasgow before I came in but that helped me rugby and focus wise. When you are not in there you want it more. It was good for me in that sense. It is never a good thing not to be involved.
“I did not feel any extra pressure going into any Test. It is the same feeling. There is a lot of pressure from the outside but you try and control it yourself. I always talk about the small conversations you have in the game and me, Barcs and Hardie were chatting the whole game so we were sure about every scrum, every lineout. I felt pretty comfortable in there because I was beside two great players.”
Cotter has a few selection headaches ahead of the game against France a week on Sunday. Does he continue with his midfield combination of Duncan Taylor and Mark Bennett or does he try and squeeze Alex Dunbar into the equation somewhere, possibly on the bench, presuming the Glasgow man has another fruitful outing this Sunday.
Does Tim Visser hold onto the No 11 shirt after Sean Maitland turned out for London Irish on Sunday despite being ruled out of Rome due to a thigh injury which prevented him training during the week with Scotland?
And then there is the third row of the scrum. Cotter has stuck with his twin opensides thus far and they repaid his faith with a try each last Saturday. It would be a surprise if he shuffled his cards for France but Les Bleus are a little like England in their ability to smash the most determined limpit clean off the ball at the breakdown.
Denton may be the busiest defensive eight, Josh Strauss may be best of the three with the ball in hand but, after last Saturday’s performance, Wilson has at least given himself a chance of facing the French at Murrayfield.
“I thought I did okay,” is the extent of his bragging following the weekend win. “Listen, I can only do what I can do,” says Ryan. “We have a high standard of back row players in the squad.
“My role is to keep my head down and work hard and leave it to Vern next week. I have done what I can do in the match. It comes down to the balance of the back row he wants against France. I am here for the team but if I’m not picked I have to take it on the chin.”