‘It was special’ - Ryan Wilson on winning his 50th cap after thinking his Scotland career was over

Ryan Wilson thought the chance of a 50th cap had passed him by. Stuck on 49 since the defeat by Japan at the 2019 World Cup, the Glasgow man had convinced himself that his international days were over.

Ryan Wilson, right, lifted the Auld Alliance Trophy with Scotland captain Stuart Hogg. Picture: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO/Shutterstock
Ryan Wilson, right, lifted the Auld Alliance Trophy with Scotland captain Stuart Hogg. Picture: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO/Shutterstock

That’s why Friday night’s win over France was so special, made even more so when Stuart Hogg invited him to lift the Auld Alliance Trophy with him.

“I was trying to sit at the back – I didn’t want to do a John Terry – but Hoggy was ‘come on Wils, down you get’ so I thought I might as well jump in there,” laughed Wilson in reference to the former Chelsea captain’s central role in the club’s 2012 Champions League celebrations after he’d missed the final through suspension.

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“I know I will get some stick for that but it is not often you get your 50th along with a good win against the French over there in Paris.”

The impossibly dramatic conclusion at the Stade de France was a fitting occasion for Wilson’s landmark Scotland appearance after he was drafted into the squad at the 11th hour.

Wilson came on as a second-half substitute and played his part in the build-up to the injury-time try from Duhan van der Merwe which clinched Scotland’s first victory in Paris since 1999.

“Those tries are always good for the forwards because you go through some graft to get to those points but it is always the bloody backs who steal the show when we are the ones who did the work!” said Wilson, who will return to France this week for Glasgow’s European Challenge Cup last-16 tie with Montpellier on Friday.

The Scotland call from Gregor Townsend came when Matt Fagerson was injured in the final training session before the squad left for Paris. The session just happened to be a practice match between the national side and Glasgow Warriors.

Ryan Wilson will return to France with Glasgow Warriors to take on Montpellier on Friday. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

“We trained against Scotland over at Oriam on the Wednesday before they flew out, so as normal when you send a Glasgow team over there it was quite a feisty session, and Matt injured his ankle,” explained Wilson.

“Right at the end, Gregor came over and said: ‘Listen, I think we might need you to go to France.’

“I’d done all the preparation with Glasgow that week and I wasn’t quite sure what my role was going to be with Scotland, but I ended up on the bench and got on to make my 50th appearance.

“I had to phone Bex – my missus – and said: ‘You need to bring my passport, I’m going to France’.

“She said: ‘No, that’s next week you play Montpellier.’ She thought the dementia had set in.

“So, I explained that I was going with Scotland. She grabbed the little one and jumped in the car, and then missed the school pick-up so I was in all sorts of trouble.”

Wilson didn’t even have time to go home.

“It was pants and passport from Bex, she brought them straight over and I was off. Luckily I had most of my training stuff with me because we were training so I had my boots and everything that was needed so it was just pants and a passport.”

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Wilson’s moment arrived in the 67th minute when he replaced Nick Haining just a minute after Swan Rebbadj’s try had put France 23-20 ahead.

The Scots kept plugging away, leading to the winning try as the visitors pushed and probed for an opening for a full five minutes after the regulation 80 had elapsed.

Wilson, who was awarded his 50th cap by Hogg in a special ceremony in the changing room, had resigned himself to never reaching the landmark. “I’ll be honest, I probably did think it had got a little bit beyond that, and that would probably be me done, so it does make it a little bit more special.

“Hoggy presented me with my 50th cap straight after the game, and then I said a few words and we let the beers flow after that.

“It was special. My old man and mum were on Zoom – we couldn’t hear him and he couldn’t hear us because he still doesn’t know how to work it – but I could see him welling up and that’s all I needed to see. He had tears in his eyes.

“My wife Bex was on too. She wouldn’t let the kids stay up for it, which I said was out of order, but she didn’t want to deal with the tantrums the next day.

“So, they try to make it special with your family, but it was just a weird experience because that was the first time I had been involved with international rugby with no fans.

“It was special for me because it was my 50th and the way it happened.

“I’ve had the good fortune to play in front of a packed Stade de France, but I couldn’t help thinking that for some of these guys who have been getting their first cap during this championship, with no family and no friends, it is a real shame.”

Wilson expects a tough test against Montpellier on Friday against French side looking for a bit of revenge after what happened in Paris.

“I’m sure they will be motivated by that, but we came out on top of that one at the weekend so there’s plenty of confidence in the group, and a lot of guys who have had a bloody good Six Nations,” said Wilson.

“I was only part of that at the end, but I know what Scotland have got going on – they are building something special and you can see the confidence of the guys that are in tere.

“So, to have them all back available this week is really special for us in such a big competition.”

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