SCOTLAND’S combative back-row Ryan Wilson is expecting a particularly feisty encounter against Ireland in his team’s World Cup opener in Japan in just under two months’ time. It is a match which looks certain to have a big bearing on who progresses – and how – to the knock-out stages from Pool A, although Samoa and hosts Japan will also expect to have a say in how the group pans out.
Asked whether there is any love lost between two Six Nations, 30-year-old Wilson replied: “No there isn’t – and I quite enjoy it!
“There is a good edge there with Ireland, but that is what makes these games exciting and they are always physical games against Ireland so that first encounter is going to be a really physical and a tough one out in Japan, so I suppose it is who comes off better after that.
“Ireland did well in the Six Nations and we didn’t, [so] some people might say the pressure is on Ireland, but it is a different tournament and we will see where we are come September.”
Ireland are currently ranked third in the world, and much of their recent success has been built on their formidable pack, but the veteran back-rower has backed his namesake Danny Wilson to have the Scottish forwards ready to fight fire with fire.
“Danny has been brilliant, a really good bloke,” the Glasgow Warriors man said. “He understands the players having come from a rugby background and he knows what the boys need to do.
“He’s not a coach that flogs you, he knows what needs done and he’s very technical – in that sense I’d compare him to a Dan McFarland [former Scotland forwards coach].
“When he sets up a drill, he explains it to you, how we’re doing it, and why we’re doing it and then he puts it up for discussion which is something you need because, at the end of the day, if the players aren’t enjoying it then it won’t work. He’s open to feedback, but he’s there to have a good craic as well.
“I am enjoying this summer’s camp, the fitness side of it is pretty tough especially last week after a couple of weeks off with the family. We came back in with a bang and had fitness testing on the Monday morning so the guys are definitely fitter then when the summer started.”
Wilson, who has 37 caps to his name and played in the 2015 World Cup, is one of 10 back-rows battling it out for spots to go to Japan.
He is up against John Barclay, Magnus Bradbury, Matt Fagerson, Gary Graham, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner, Josh Strauss, Blade Thomson and Hamish Watson in the battle to make the plane to Japan.
Asked if the back-row ‘factory’ had ever churned out as much talent during his time with Scotland, Wilson replied: “No, never. There’s about 10 back-rows in the squad, and there’s no one that’s certain to go or not to go to the World Cup.
“You have some young guys coming through, the likes of Matt Fagerson who’s been playing so well at Glasgow, and you have some old gits like John Barclay who are still hanging in there.
“It’s a strong position to be in and you can’t take anything for granted, and I don’t think anyone will with the way boys are training.
“Blade Thomson is the newest of the group and he is a really good player and really good bloke. He’s done well at training, and he’s fitted in well with the squad. He’s a quiet guy, he goes about his business quietly, but he’s looking sharp.
“I think as a whole squad we are in a very good place at the moment and there is so much competition, it is an exciting time and anything can happen at World Cups.
“Make the knock-out stages, which we are excited about doing and we feel we can do it, then knock-out rugby is knock-out rugby and anything can happen.”