RYAN Wilson believes he has emerged from his criminal conviction and suspension as a better person and is keen to put the unsavoury incident in the past.
The grisly details of that 2013 assault in a fast-food joint which led to Wilson being fined by the court and then suspended by the SRU are well known.
The fact it all played out in Halloween fancy dress costumes could lend it a rather farcical air, but this was no laughing matter.
Wilson revealed yesterday that he had met with Ally Maclay, the Glasgow Hawks captain he punched, and that he now considers the matter closed, with rebuilding the rugby career derailed by the incident his primary focus.
Helping his club win the Guinness Pro12 title was the first step towards that and now he has been picked for Scotland’s World Cup squad.
“I am quite a positive person and try and stay as positive as I can,” said the Aldershot-born 26-year-old at BT Murrayfield yesterday after he was named in the Scotland team to face France in Paris tomorrow night.
“What I can keep control of I will. I knew I would have a chance if I trained well, and got a few games at the end of the season for Glasgow and played well so did alright there. With Scotland I knew I’d be training and I would have a chance of putting my hand up there.
“It has been tough. Mentally it has been tough going through what happened. Other than that I am just trying to focus on the rugby and play as well as I can when I get my chance.”
Asked if he thought he had blown his career, Wilson replied: “Not so much blown it. I have great support from people round me, family and the people at Glasgow like Gregor [Townsend]. At times like this he was fantastic. He helped me through a lot. He is a guy you can chat to when you want.
“You look back to old coaches. Sean Lineen. He was my mentor so I could phone up Sean and go through stuff with him. People with Scotland, Vern [Cotter], Humps [forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys], you have these guys you can come and speak to.
“I didn’t think so much that I had blown it but I put myself under a bit of pressure.”
Wilson insists he has learned from the experience. “Yeah, I think so,” he said when asked if he had become a better person. “I have probably done some growing up in that time. I feel a stronger person.
“I have been through quite a bit with it. I think my head is in the right place now. Looking back I regret the whole situation but I feel like I have come out the other end a stronger person.”
The flanker made an impressive return for his club with a particularly eye-catching display in the Pro12 final win over Munster. However, he said there was never any assurances from national coach Cotter.
“Vern said work hard towards the end of the season and you will get a shot if you are playing well enough to get into the training squad,” said Wilson.
“He also said to me during the training camp, if you do well enough you will get your chance in the third match because that is when I would be back playing. He gave me that shot.”
Wilson’s international ban ended the day after Scotland’s win in Turin and he was put straight into the team for the rematch against the Azzurri in Edinburgh last Saturday. He said he didn’t feel under any extra pressure with only one game to prove himself before the squad was picked.
“There were a few boys in a similar situation, just getting to play the third game and Vern said to us that the fourth game would be the World Cup squad.
“I treated it as any other game. Playing for Scotland the nerves were a bit more but I was well prepared after the final against Munster.
“It is even easier to go out on the pitch with so many of your team-mates from Glasgow. You know there are people around me that I am comfortable playing with so my mindset is to get my head down and do what I do best and representing the shirt when I can.”
Cotter praised Wilson’s attributes yesterday and said: “He gives us lineout, he’s our fastest forward. He also gives us options at seven and eight and he’s aggressive. He brings an edge and he’s got a great profile for a number of positions.”
Wilson will have to be at his best tomorrow against a strong French back-row which includes the returning skipper Thierry Dusautoir. “They have a very similar back row to when we [Glasgow] played Toulouse last year,” said Wilson. “They have some big players and they play good rugby. It will be good to test ourselves at that level.
“We have been watching [first pool opponents] Japan and there are areas where France are quite similar – such as around the breakdown. Japan like to pick and go and go through the ruck and France will play a similar game.
“It is the same when you kick it to them – they like to have a go. Japan have a big back row and a No 8 who is similar to [Louis] Picamoles.”