Scotland forward Ryan Wilson believes the advances made by support staff and training techniques mean he will be fully ready for the intensity of an international Six Nations match in the pressure cooker of Cardiff on Saturday.
The Glasgow captain hasn’t played since 16 December when he injured his ankle against Montpellier but reckons, in the modern game, there is less need for game time in the lead up to a Test match.
Full-back Stuart Hogg returned from a couple of months out and was immediately up to speed in the recent match against Exeter Chiefs and, although Wilson has not been able to have a full hit-out, he is sure he will be ready if selected by coach Gregor Townsend today.
“Coaches have all sorts of things up their sleeves in terms of plans and stuff,” said the 28-year-old, who will be hoping to win his 33rd cap.
“I am talking for myself but I could go back into a game. A lot of it is mindset. Telling yourself you are not tired and keeping going.
“I will also be a lot fresher. I have not had five weeks of bashing myself to pieces before a Six Nations so I am coming in quite fresh.”
Wilson was able to test himself in controlled match conditions at Scotand’s Oriam training base last week. “It is the more the high tempo brand of rugby. That was what last week was about,” he said.
“It was coming in and trying to stretch the players as much as possible. There was some contact stuff on Friday. Obviously we were worried about injuries because there have been so many so far but we still had a good bash out on Friday.
“I have been keeping on top of my fitness at Glasgow then coming in here and we had that week last week. They work out at 50-minute sessions and you end up doing more in training than you would in a game anyway.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, the No 8 admitted that notching a major scalp away from home in the tournament is the next box to tick off in the recent Scotland resurgence.
“Beating Australia away [last June] was probably a big turning point,” he said.
“We were starting to get there and then had that game. You can’t put a pin on where it started to change, but results like these are key.
“In the last Six Nations, we focused on those home games because we had three of them, whereas this year we obviously only have the two so going away and picking up points away from home is going to be massive. And there is a squad here that believes we can do that – so it will be a must-win going down there.”
Wilson feels the time is right for Scotland to prove they are genuine contenders. “We were always that team that nearly did it and then started getting the results where we would grind them out and we’ve now become a team that is doing better,” he said. “The All Blacks was a different one. We nearly did it. We should have won that match, but that’s probably the mindset. We’re not a team that’s thinking ‘oh, we lost but we did well,’ we’re a team that’s thinking we’ll win this game and we’re starting to do that.
“I keep coming back to it and it’s about going down there and believing you can do it and there is that belief, so we’ve got to keep getting that in our mind, knowing we can go down there and win.”
After Wales named a team with ten players from Scarlets yesterday, there should be a big contingent of Glasgow men when Townsend announces his team, something Wilson believes adds an interesting dimension to the encounter.
“They’ll bring their form into it as well because Scarlets have been doing fantastic,” he said. “We’ve obviously got our mole John Barclay who’s telling us all sorts about them, so we’ll be all right I think.
“But it’s good to see these Pro14 clubs providing so many players to these international teams.”
Wilson wasn’t keen on revealing what insights skipper Barclay was giving about the men he knows so well from playing with them at the Llanelli-based region.
“He mainly just shares snapchats of them farting,” said Wilson with a smile. “That’s about all I’m getting at the moment. We’re going to kick into rugby this week. He’s got a few things on some of their players and their traits, so it’s nice to have someone in there, but I can’t give too much away except for the farting on Snapchat.”
While Wales have lost a number of key men, Scotland have had their troubles in the front row but have brought in experience through veterans Scott Lawson and Jon Welsh.
“The pack has got some caps about it. Barcs pumps that up for us nicely,” said Wilson.
“It’s been nice to see Edinburgh doing really well. They’ve brought in a bit of form and Glasgow haven’t done as well in Europe, but our league form brings a bit of experience into there.
“Then you add the guys from Saracens and the likes of Greig [Laidlaw] coming over from France, there’s plenty of experience in there that will hold us in good stead.”