THE difference between Scotland’s new Covid isolation regulations and those in other countries could put Glasgow at a serious disadvantage in their Champions Cup campaign, according to Danny Wilson.
The Warriors will continue their schedule of pool matches at home to Exeter on Saturday evening, having returned from La Rochelle at the weekend with a losing bonus point. They then play both clubs again – La Rochelle at home and Exeter away – after the turn of the year. Those two teams would constitute tough opposition even if Glasgow were at full strength, but head coach Wilson’s concern is that the new rules surrounding household positives will make it more likely that some of his players end up being sidelined.
As of last Saturday, the Scottish rules were tightened to take into account the new omicron variant, and mean that if someone in a Warriors player’s household tests positive for Covid, that player will have to self-isolate along with them. In England, by contrast, the rule remains in place allowing people to be cleared by a negative PCR test in the event of a household positive. In other words, one rule for current Glasgow prop Zander Fagerson, for example; another for Exeter’s ex-Glasgow full-back Stuart Hogg.
“The change of rules in Scotland about ten days’ isolation for household contacts is massive for us,” Wilson said yesterday. “That means players who haven’t got it, but live with someone who has, will be out for ten days. That’s not the same in the countries of the teams we’re going to be playing against – England, France, Wales and other nations don’t have that rule in place, I believe.”
Although losing one or two players because of isolation rules would have a greater or lesser impact according to which players they were, Glasgow and other clubs in a similar position would still be able to put out a competitive team. But, as the omicron variant spreads, Wilson is worried that the number of positive cases could prevent some games from going ahead. “I really hope not – but the threat is increasing dramatically each week,” he continued,
“A few clubs have been struggling – Munster, [Cardiff] Blues, Scarlets and Wasps, I think. You’re going to see more this week. And I think the inevitability is that we might have some threats on games. I hope that doesn’t happen, but we’ll see.”
Medical confidentiality prevents Wilson from discussing by name any individuals within his squad who might be unvaccinated, but he tacitly admitted that not every player has been jagged. “I think there are individual choices and individual decisions made in any environment. It’s brought to my attention if it’s going to restrict somebody from playing. It is individual choices and in every environment there are one or two who have made that decision.”
It remains to be seen if any members of Wilson’s squad are ruled out of the Exeter match, but whoever plays will need to be on top of his game if Glasgow are to get the result they need to keep themselves in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages of European rugby’s premier competition. That 20-13 loss in France three days ago was a commendable result given the quality of the opposition, and the losing bonus point may yet prove relevant given the top eight in each pool of a dozen clubs will progress to the last 16. Even so, Wilson will demand that his team tighten up some aspects of their play against Exeter in the expectation that another losing bonus will simply not do.
“I was really proud of the boys at the weekend,” he added. “To be in the lead around 60 minutes away at La Rochelle, a team that was in the European Cup final last year, was a step in the right direction.
“Ultimately we still lost the game and that was down to a couple of key moments that cost us. We will need to be right on top of our game against Exeter to get the win. If we can do that then we’ll be right in the mix.
“They’ve a very powerful pack of forwards and play through them. They have a very direct style of rugby, but can mix it with exciting players like Hoggy [Stuart Hogg] in the wide channels. They can play a varied game, but the majority of time they go direct. If you give them entries into your half you’ll spend long plays in defence trying to get it back off them.”
To be honest I think the standard of the other teams in the competition will have a bigger impact on Glasgow’s Champions Cup hopes.