Richie Gray close to a return for Glasgow Warriors but Leone Nakarawa still absent

Glasgow Warriors’ difficult season has not been made easier by the absence of Richie Gray and Leone Nakarawa, two totems of the second row who both returned to the club amid much fanfare.

Glasgow's Richie Gray has not played since October. Picture: Bill Murray / SNS

The good news for the Warrior Nation is that Gray is now close to returning after being sidelined since October with concussion.

The medical bulletin on Nakarawa is not so positive, with the Fijian still a bit away as he continues strengthening work on the knee injury which has absented him from the team since lockdown.

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To lose two such experienced internationals for such an extended period has been tough on Glasgow coach Danny Wilson who has had a trying start to his Scotstoun reign.

Glasgow Warriors’ Leone Nakarawa is working on strengthening his knee. Picture: Bill Murray / SNS

Wilson has cut an impressively resilient figure throughout and was at least able to report good news on Gray ahead of the 1872 Cup match against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on 2 January.

“Richie is making really good progress and I’m hopeful. I won’t say for definite, because I know how these things could change, but he’s in the best place he’s been in for some time, so I’m hoping that he’ll be close, if not available for that game,” said the coach.

“Leone is more of an outside chance, to be honest. He’s still taking a little bit of time to recover from that knee, in terms of strengthening it.

“I had a meeting with him on Wednesday. He’s getting there, he’s definitely making progress, but it’s slower than we hoped.”

Wilson said that Nakarawa had recently upped his workrate in terms of his rehab, suggesting that he hadn’t been as fit as might have been when he returned to the club.

“Now he’s working hard, let me put it that way,” said the coach. “He came back with a lot more to do than we thought would be the case. Our medical staff are working extremely hard with him, and we all want to see him on the pitch.

“I think his confidence is actually good at the moment. He is making progress and slowly strengthening that knee to make it safe to take a game of rugby. It’s not at that place yet, and it’s taken longer to get there than we thought it would, but I’m confident and he’s confident that we’re getting much closer.”

The first 1872 Cup festive derby was postponed due to Covid cases in the Glasgow squad but things are looking promising for January 2 and Wilson is relishing the chance to take on their oldest rivals. He got a taste for it when the sides met twice in August after lockdown. Honours were even, with one win apiece.

“They were my first two games [in charge], which was strange. We had all the players available to us for those games, as did Edinburgh, and we saw two pretty tight games.

“Also game one especially was adapting to the new contact-area laws. That was the first game we’d all dealt with them, and I think we’ve probably adjusted quite a lot since then, but at the time they were very tightly refereed.

“Any derbies that I’ve been involved in are the closest thing to internationals. There’s the intensity, you know each other inside out, and therefore selectors will pick off the back of those games.”

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