DANNY WILSON says that his team’s emergence as genuine contenders in the Rainbow Cup won’t distract him from using the competition as an opportunity to have a closer look at some of the up-and-coming players in the Glasgow Warriors squad.
After a horror show start to the tournament last month – when Warriors slumped to a humiliating 46-19 away to Benetton – Wilson’s side resurrected their campaign with back-to-back bonus-point wins over arch-rivals Edinburgh during the last fortnight, meaning that the 1872 Cup has returned to Scotstoun for the first time since 2017, and leaving the side joint second in the Rainbow Cup table (four points adrift of Benetton with two rounds of matches still to play).
Warriors play the Dragons away next Saturday evening (29th May), and then host mighty Leinster at Scotstoun the following Friday (4th May), as they hunt a top of the table finish which would qualify them for a cross-hemisphere play-off match against the top side in the South African section of the Rainbow Cup on 19th June.
Wilson acknowledged that it would be good to finish the season on a high, but added that the best way to do that is by continuing his policy of blending in up-and-coming academy players into the side alongside his established stalwarts.
“There are definitely still combinations we want to put on the field together,” he explained. “But we are not going into each game with fully experimental sides. I still think we want to win both remaining games.”
“Let’s take Rory Darge,” he added. “We gave him a start last weekend – out of the blue, really, because we could have gone with Tom Gordon – and that paid off. We are now all quite excited about him and what he can bring for the future.
“It’s the same with Tom Lambert, going up against WP Nel was a needs-must situation but he did well, as did Ross Thompson and Rufus McLean previously. So, we are going to do more of that in these games, we’re not going to go away from that because we think it’s important, but that doesn’t mean we’re going into these games without the intention of winning.”
While he is keen to give players a chance to show what they can do on the pitch, Wilson stressed that only those he feels deserve a chance – and who he believes can help the team continue their recent winning habit – will get the nod.
“It is so important in your culture that the young players earn that opportunity and don’t just get given it because they are in the academy,” he said. “If the wrong approach develops, those players think they are going to get their chance because they’ve signed their contract. They need to know that they will get their chance because they show in training that they are fit for purpose and deserve the opportunity.
“When we gave Ross [Thompson] his opportunity he thoroughly deserved it and he took it with both hands. He’s probably had one testing performance but apart from that he has played well in every game, so that has paid off, and having experienced players around him has helped him.
“Tom [Lambert] took longer because I didn’t think he deserved it, if I’m being brutally honest, until recently. He’s really knuckled down and worked hard. He’s convinced the guys that he wants to be a Warrior, he’s improved his scrummaging, and got to a place where he has earned it. Gregor Brown [currently injured] earned it. That’s such an important message for the future.”
Warriors announced on Tuesday that attack coach Jonny Bell is leaving the club at the end of the season as his family have struggled to settle in Glasgow during Covid, and Wilson explained that the wheels are already in motion to identify and appoint a suitable replacement.
“We need to add to our staff, there is no doubt about that, with Jonny going it is a hole we need to fill,” he said. “We’ve got into it quite quickly over the last week or two. There’s people I’m speaking to at the moment and we’ll be able to make an announcement on an appointment at the relevant time.”