Glasgow Warriors: The three key signings who fuelled revival as Danny Wilson delivers mid-term report

Asked to deliver a mid-term report on Glasgow Warriors, Danny Wilson stressed the impact made by key signings Jack Dempsey, Josh McKay and Sione Tuipulotu.

The signing of Aussie international Jack Dempsey has had a hugely positive impact on Glasgow Warriors. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The coach is particularly pleased with the style of rugby his team is playing this season as they seek to maintain the club’s attacking principles while adding a harder edge.

The addition of Dempsey, McKay and Tuipulotu has helped hugely in this respect but Wilson knows he must balance overseas signings with developing native talent.

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He estimates that 80 to 85 per cent of his squad is Scottish and it will remain this way.

New Zealand-born full-back Josh McKay has been a shrewd signing. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

With the Scottish Rugby Union still in control of both professional clubs, Glasgow and Edinburgh will continue to serve the interests of the national team – it’s a stipulation Wilson signed up for when he took the job.

“When we do our recruitment, it is a very joined-up approach in Scotland, very different to what I experienced in Wales,” said Wilson who was head coach at Cardiff Blues and then assistant to Scotland coach Gregor Townsend before taking the reins at Glasgow in 2020.

“It is about having the right people around the table to discuss it and make the decisions.

“Our squad at the moment is around 80-85 per cent Scottish. That is a good guideline – to be around that 80 per cent figure. The responsibility and aim of our two clubs has got to be to produce and bring through Scottish internationals – it has to be. That is the big picture.

Glasgow centre Sione Tuipulotu earned his first Scotland cap in the Autumn Nations Series win over Tonga. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“But there needs to be a sprinkling of quality foreign signings to help develop those Scottish players and also to make you as competitive as possible.

“I am quite proud we are around that 80 per cent Scottish figure and winning games of rugby. That has to be our aim, but it is not set in stone you have to be at this figure.”

Aussie-born Tuipulotu is, of course, Scottish-qualified and won his first cap in the autumn, and Wallaby international Dempsey will become eligible to represent Scotland in October following the alteration to the eligibility laws by World Rugby. Wilson will continue to scour the overseas market as he seeks to strengthen his squad.

Glasgow have already signed South African second-rower JP du Preez from Sale Sharks for next season and they have also been linked with a move for former All Blacks centre Malakai Feketoa who is expected to leave Wasps in the summer.

Head coach Danny Wilson is pleased with the style of rugby Glasgow are playing. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Wilson believes the addition of experienced, hardened pros from the southern hemisphere can only help in the team’s development.

“It is more of the same in terms of signings to the identity we want to play to,” said the coach. “It is not just with the ball. There is obviously the defensive and set-piece element we need as a platform too, so at times we can play that pragmatic game we are showing we can play.

“If you look at Jack, Sione and Josh McKay recently, those three guys have made a massive impact. They are the types of players we identified we wanted to sign and went after.

“I think they’ve been successful signings so far and there are more of that calibre, more of that type of player we want to bring, while obviously maintaining our responsibility to develop and bring through young Scottish players.”

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Currently sitting fifth in the 16-team United Rugby Championship, Glasgow also made a splash in Europe with their win over Exeter Chiefs in the Heineken Champions Cup. The victory over Rob Baxter’s 2020 winners was achieved with a degree of grit which was particularly pleasing for the head coach. Attacking rugby will remain a staple for Glasgow but he knows that some games require a huge defensive effort.

“I certainly think we are making really good steps forward with our style of rugby,” he said. “You’re seeing some exciting rugby and we are sticking to our identity as Glasgow Warriors. We are scoring tries, we have improved our defensive record and our defence generally.

“If you look at the Exeter game, that was an outstanding defensive display to hold those guys to seven points and shut them out from areas of the game where they are strong. Our set-piece is functioning well; we are getting scrum dominance against those types of sides. Our driving lineouts are functioning both sides of the ball.

“So I feel we are in a decent place. The key thing we are striving for is consistency – doing it five, six, seven weeks out of seven, not two weeks out of three or four.

“My current remit - alongside winning games of rugby – is building a squad that will allow us to do that in future. I am in the middle of that now. You have seen some of the recruitment announcements we have made already and there is more to come.”

Wilson cites the decision of both Ali Price and Zander Fagerson to sign new contracts with the club as fundamental to what he is trying to achieve at Glasgow.

“Ali Price’s re-signing to me is a massive statement from the club. As you can imagine, Ali had plenty of options on the table as the best nine from a British & Irish Lions point of view and possibly more. For him to choose to stay at the club shows where he is at and hopefully we can attract and keep those type of players.

“Zander’s re-signing – that’s both our Lions - is another one. They are positive steps forward. It is a balancing act getting all those things right. When you look at the youngsters, the likes of Rory Darge and Ross Thompson are coming through. I still think you’ll see Gregor Brown and another couple of second rows and props I am excited about. It is important we bring those guys through as well.”

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