Glasgow Warriors coach Danny Wilson optimistic about new season after ‘brutal’ start to last campaign

Glasgow Warriors’ season ended on a high note with four Rainbow Cup wins on the bounce, including two against Edinburgh. They also secured a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup which added gloss to a Guinness Pro14 campaign which rarely rose above average.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Danny Wilson. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS
Glasgow Warriors head coach Danny Wilson. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

It’s all change for next season, with the new United Rugby Championship replacing the Pro14, and Glasgow coach Danny Wilson is glad to have some clarity on the revamp.

South Africa’s leading four teams will join the fray and the big plus for the Scottish sides is that the fixtures will be scheduled to avoid clashes with international games.

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Wilson’s biggest bugbear in 2020-21 was the amount of time his Scotland players spent in camp with the national side, a situation exacerbated by the extended autumn Test programme and the ‘bubble’ environment which prevented their returning to Glasgow between games.

Glasgow Warriors finished the season strongly with a win over Pro14 champions Leinster at Scotstoun. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

“The first half of the season was brutal, where you had 14, 15 players away, no release from Scotland, you’re trying to get players in from different Super6 teams and Premiership clubs on loan . . . If you look at the players we used over that period, it’s ridiculous,” said Wilson during a campaign debrief.

“So that was a really tough, challenging period, where we probably knew that expectations maybe wouldn’t be as high as first planned when I took the job and there was no Covid around. But then once the boys came back and we had a spell with them, we could do something.

“So the positives were we qualified for Europe, and we finished third in the Rainbow Cup with a good run of four wins out of five and beating Leinster in the last game of the season. We also had back-to-back wins over Edinburgh, which hasn’t been done for a while, and we won the 1872 Cup, which hasn’t been done for a while.

“So there were definitely positives. Negatives: we only won six of our 16 Pro14 games.”

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Wilson’s players who are not involved in summer tours will return for their first block of pre-season in mid-July and the coach is looking forward to a smoother campaign with more access to his internationals.

“Going into this year it will be more like what I thought it was going to be when I took the job,” he said. “You will need to manage your players and rest and rotate at the appropriate time. That’s a real positive for me.”

The other big plus for Glasgow was the number of talented young players who broke into the team, something which bodes well for next season.

“I counted seven players we blooded. Ross Thompson ended up as our player of the year as an Academy player - that’s quite an achievement. Those seven will stand us in good stead for next year. So there are positives, definitely, in what has been a very challenging year.”

The late start to the 2021-22 campaign - the United Rugby Championship will not kick off until September 24 - should mean players have time to recover from their exertions with the Lions and Scotland. Glasgow hope to make an announcement soon on a couple of pre-season friendlies.

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