GLASGOW coach Gregor Townsend is sure Ryan Wilson is ready to put his three-month suspension behind him after naming the flanker on the bench for tonight’s Guinness Pro12 crunch against Ospreys in Swansea.
Wilson was suspended without pay for three months after being found guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court of assaulting two Glasgow Hawks players in a west end takeaway last October. He was also fined £750 by the court.
The player was disciplined by Scottish Rugby at the beginning of February, also receiving a longer international ban – which is not up until the end of August – and ordered to take part in a programme that will “support his personal development around the factors which contributed to the original conviction”.
Wilson has not played for Glasgow since facing Scarlets in January but will be on the bench tonight when the leaders face fourth-placed Ospreys in the penultimate game before the end of the regular Pro12 season.
Townsend said: “I think he has looked really good at training this week. Ryan is an excellent player who had been playing for us before his suspension.
“He has worked hard to be in a position where we could select him. It was a big decision this week and we are very confident he will go well if he comes off the bench.
“He can’t wait. I had said to him the end of last week we had a decision to make as to whether he played a training game we are running today or whether we involved him in this game. He was over the moon when he heard he was in this squad.
“He has been very positive, he has shown a great deal of professionalism these last three months to work hard. He is so happy to be back playing, this is what every player wants – to be involved playing. If you miss time with injury or in this case suspension it can be frustrating so I think we will see a real positive impact from Ryan if he comes on.”
Glasgow have already booked their place in the play-offs but are now looking to secure a home semi-final. Townsend also gives a first start to Scotland stand-off Duncan Weir following his recent return from injury.
Weir replaces Finn Russell in the No 10 shirt, which is the only change to the back-line which started the 31-13 win over Connacht in Galway almost a fortnight ago.
In the forwards Ryan Grant comes in for Jerry Yanuyanutawa at loose-head, Pat MacArthur replaces Fraser Brown at hooker and Jon Welsh continues at tighthead.
Tim Swinson comes in for Leone Nakarawa in the second row and he’ll partner Jonny Gray in the engine room.
In the back row Rob Harley and Chris Fusaro continue at blind-side and open-side respectively, while Josh Strauss replaces Adam Ashe at No 8 and captains the side.
“I wanted to give Duncan an opportunity to start,” said Townsend. “He has now been involved in two games off the bench after picking up his injury in December.
“I have just taken Finn out this weekend, he has a couple of things to work on physically and will be back available next week. He has had a different training focus this week.”
Townsend said his troops are fired up for the challenge of the next few weeks and know how vital it is to secure that home advantage for the semi-finals.
“They realise the importance,” said Townsend. “For one, they want to be selected in the team and to play well, which gives them a better chance of playing over the next couple of weeks.
“From a club point of view, we need to win one of these last two games to get a home semi-final.
“The challenge facing us this weekend is an excellent side who have not lost at home since early in 2014.
“Training has gone well, we know what a physical challenge the Ospreys bring. I have seen their team and it is the strongest possible with Rhys Web, Dan Biggar, Alun Wyn Jones and all those players. It has focused the minds.
“We want to keep the momentum going. We’ve had three good performances in terms of results since the Six Nations but know there are a number of areas we need to get better if we are going to win these games.”