Ryan Wilson on brink of Glasgow Warriors landmark - but will have to make impact from bench against Exeter Chiefs

Glasgow Warriors co-captain Ryan Wilson is in line to make his 200th appearance for the club in Saturday’s game against Exeter Chiefs but he will have to do so from the bench.

Ryan Wilson is in line to make his 200th appearance for Glasgow Warriors.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Ryan Wilson is in line to make his 200th appearance for Glasgow Warriors. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

In what is potentially a landmark occasion for the back-row forward, he has been named among the replacements for the Heineken Champions Cup clash at Sandy Park.

It is the only change made by coach Danny Wilson to the team which disposed of Ospreys in an impressive manner last weekend.

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Wilson makes way to accommodate the return of Jack Dempsey in a reshuffled back row comprising the Australian international at No 8, Matt Fagerson, moving from eight to six, and Rory Darge.

Jack Dempsey returns to the Glasgow Warriors side to face Exeter at Sandy Park. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
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If Wilson takes to the field he will become only the second player in the professional history of the club to reach a double century of appearances, joining Rob Harley with whom he made his debut against Leinster at Firhill back in September 2010.

Dempsey’s recall is no surprise given the impact he has made since joining Glasgow in the summer. The back row has proved an astute acquisition and tops the carrying charts in this season’s Champions Cup with 31 from his two matches. The Warriors will need all his abrasive excellence if they are to get the better of Exeter in their own lair.

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The scale of the task facing Glasgow can be measured by their record south of the border. In 25 away games against English Premiership opposition in the Champions Cup, they have won three and lost 22.

That said, one of the victories came against Exeter, in January 2014, when the Scots visitors come from 10-0 down to win 15-10. Five of Glasgow’s points came from the boot of Stuart Hogg that day (the were also tries from the two Seans, Maitland and Lamont) and the Scotland captain will, of course, be wearing the colours of Exeter on Saturday.

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Glasgow's win over Exeter Chiefs at Scotstoun last month was described by Danny Wilson as his proudest moment as Warriors coach. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Hogg was on the losing side when the teams met at Scotstoun before Christmas in what Warriors chief Danny Wilson described as a “milestone” result for his team.

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“Beating Exeter was a big, big win for us, a real milestone for us to take a big scalp against a top side that was fully loaded,” said the coach.

“We won comfortably at 22-7. That doesn't take away from the amount of hard work it takes to get a win against that sort of opponent. They're a brilliant side and have been for a long time. They've proved that.

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“Maybe, in their eyes, they felt they were off their standard and will want to put that right. That will be their motivation. Likewise, we'll want to show that we can do it home and away. Beating them at home is a big achievement, but also beating them away this season would be massive.”

Glasgow’s ability to match and ultimately beat Exeter’s physicality was a huge achievement for Wilson, who described the victory as his proudest achievement since taking charge at Scotstoun.

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“In our forward display we won the set-piece battle, both scrum and lineout,” he added. “If you're doing that against them then you’re in a good place because that’s their strength. Our defensive collisions in our own 22 were massive and need to be the same this week.

“Probably the most pleasing thing for me was our discipline. Our discipline has let us down in a number of games, where we’ve given away double figure penalties, but you simply cannot give away double figure penalties in big European matches against the calibre of teams we’re now facing. That'll be another big focus.

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“Hopefully our backs can also fire like they have been firing because they have been excellent. With the likes of Sione [Tuipulotu], and the damage these guys can do, we're confident going down there but fully aware of the challenge ahead.”

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Wilson had nothing but praise for his namesake Ryan for the way the player accepted his demotion to the bench.

“Ryan’s been brilliant this week. It’s a mark of the man,” he said.

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“He obviously really wanted to start the game and he always believes he should start, and that’s what you want from your players, that competition. But he also said, ‘I’m about what’s best for Glasgow and giving us the best opportunity to win the game and beat Exeter away’. And I genuinely believe that with him – he’s team first.”

The coach said there was no preordained plan regarding if or when the co-captain would get on but it would be a major surprise if he didn’t see action.

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Having beaten Exeter at home and gained a losing bonus point in France against La Rochelle, Glasgow find themselves handily placed at the halfway point in the group stage.

They are sixth in Pool A, with the top eight going through to the last 16 at the conclusion of four rounds of fixtures. La Rochelle visit Scotstoun next weekend.

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Exeter, winners of this competition as recently as 2020, were stung by their defeat in Glasgow and go into the rematch without their second row totems, Jonny Gray and Jonny Hill.

Rob Baxter, the Chiefs coach, has a clear idea of where things went wrong at Scotstoun and expects his players to address those shortcomings.

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“We dropped a lot of ball, we didn’t get through our phases, we were passive and out set-piece wasn’t great on the day,” said Baxter.

“Yes, you have to give Glasgow some credit for the way they played and the things they did in the game, but watching it back it was clear to see where we had some of our issues.

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“That said, we have played away to Glasgow before and not come away with much and that’s not been the be all and end all of our European season. We have learnt from those games and quickly moved on – and that’s what we need to do again this weekend.”

Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors, Heineken Champions Cup, Saturday, 5:30pm, Sandy Park.

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Exeter Chiefs: 15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Jack Nowell, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ian Whitten, 11. Tom O'Flaherty, 10. Joe Simmonds, 9. Jack Maunder, 1. Ben Moon, 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (c), 3. Josh Iosefa-Scott, 4. Sam Skinner, 5. Sean Lonsdale, 6. Dave Ewers, 7. Jannes Kirsten, 8. Sam Simmonds.

Subs: 16. Jack Innard, 17. James Kenny, 18. Patrick Schickerling, 19. Dafydd Jenkins, 20. Don Armand, 21. Sam Maunder, 22. Harvey Skinner, 23. Tom Gilbert-Hendrickson.

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Glasgow Warriors: 15. Josh McKay, 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Sione Tuipulotu, 12. Samuel Johnson, 11. Cole Forbes, 10. Ross Thompson, 9. Ali Price (c), 1. Jamie Bhatti, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Scott Cummings, 5. Kiran McDonald-Seran, 6. Matt Fagerson, 7. Rory Darge, 8. Jack Dempsey.

Subs: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Oli Kebble, 18. Enrique Pieretto Heiland, 19. Lewis Bean, 20. Ryan Wilson, 21. George Horne, 22. Duncan Weir, 23. Sebastian Cancelliere.

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Referee: Romain Poite (France).

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