MORE signings are on the way at Glasgow, according to Danny Wilson, with the back five of the pack and full-back being the priorities. The new head coach admitted, however, that some aspects of recruitment had been put on hold as a result of the pandemic, and that he was unsure whether all of his plans for the squad would be realised on time for the resumption of play at the end of next month.
Last week’s announcement that Leone Nakarawa has signed for a further season went some way to assuaging the worries of Glasgow fans, who have seen several big names leave the club and not as yet be replaced. But the Fijian forward can only do so much on his own, and although the signings of lock Richie Gray and prop Enrique Pieretto were announced earlier in the year, there are still some obvious gaps in the squad.
The recruitment of second-row forward Hamish Bain from Stade Nicois will be confirmed shortly, but Wilson may well also be looking for someone who, like Nakarawa and Rob Harley, can play with equal ease at lock and in the back row. In the back division, the retirement of Ruaridh Jackson leaves a space, finances permitting, for a recruit who can compete with Glenn Bryce for the No 15 jersey.
“We have a couple more [signings] to make and that will be forthcoming,” Wilson said. “Due to the current situation, we were paused in terms of recruitment. There were plans to do a bit more, but we have been on pause since March.
“Leone makes a huge difference to the back five of the scrum. We worked really hard over a period of time to keep him at Glasgow. He came back for a short period and obviously that was cut short, but I’m really excited about him re-signing. We now have a couple more signings to make that will deal with the back five of the scrum area and we will then see how the future lies when we come out of this period.
“We’ve brought in some experience as well. Richie Gray has a wealth of experience, internationally and in Europe. We know what Leone brings. We’ve brought in Enrique Pieretto, an international tighthead prop, who will add some experience and plans to do a bit more. Whether we will be able to do more, we’ll have to wait and see how the land lies in the coming months.”
Asked if a full-back was also on his shopping list, the former Scotland assistant coach added: “Yeah, not going to hide away from that – certainly part of the plans. It’s on hold at the moment and hopefully we can pick that up again.”
Even if Wilson is able to complete all the signings he has in mind, there is a strong possibility that the new batch of academy players announced earlier this week will be pressed into service more often than their predecessors were. While those players will primarily be part of a Super6 squad, they are working more closely with both professional teams than has been the case in the past, making for a smooth transition into the matchday squad.
“What will really tell on that is what happens with the international calendar,” Wilson continued. “When you take a job like Glasgow, you understand that there are times of year where, not like I experienced in other environments, you lose a huge amount of your squad to international commitments. So once we know what the calendar looks like, we’ve then got to respond to the knock-on effect for us in the loss of players for that period.
“Generally what I mean by that is how quickly those academy guys and those linked to Super6, how much they’re exposed to rugby. But in an ideal world with developing players, development is about picking the right opportunities for them to come into games and play in the right games at the right times to get positive experiences to build on. Obviously you learn from your mistakes and you learn from tough days at the office. Those things will be taken into consideration.
“But there are some really good young players in that Glasgow setup and there are more we want to produce for the future. With the Scottish Rugby link there, it’s to the gain of Scottish rugby in the long term if we can do that.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act, because the other important part of developing young players is having quality experienced players around them. If we talk about Leinster and the quality players they bring through their academy, they’ve also got some really good senior players, whether foreign or Irish, who help bring those players through. Scott Fardy, as an example, has been talked about many times, how good he is at helping develop young academy players at Leinster. That has to be the same for me at Glasgow as well.”
Balancing flair with pragmatism
Although he has had little time as yet to work with his players, Wilson has been able to formulate a firm idea of how he wants his team to play. Crucially, he says he remains committed to the attacking style that has endeared Glasgow to neutrals, while thrilling and at times exasperating their own supporters. At the same time, however, he wants to tighten up in defence and cut down on the concession of turnovers, and acknowledged that an at times very delicate balance needs to be struck between offensive instincts and defensive common sense.
“Glasgow play a very fast, attacking brand of rugby. Their attacking stats are phenomenal and have been for the past few years. We want to keep that going and develop it, because I think that’s what brings people in to watch. The players and supporters are passionate about it, so that identity is not going to change.
“But we also need to build on our defence and develop a game-management strategy as well. If we can build on those two things to go with the attacking brand then I think that will move us forward.
“When we talk about defence, there are still some really good examples of some defensive strengths at Glasgow. When they lost the final last year, they were a top-four defence in terms of tries conceded. They’re not a top-four defence for tries conceded this year, however a lot of those tries conceded have come from turnovers as a source of possession to the opposition.
“The key word is balance – not just balance between attack and defence, but concentrating on transition, how do we transition? There are lots of different ways. One way you don’t want to transition is turning the ball over too much, because it’s the hardest one to defend for obvious reasons – you’re not set to defend.
“We need to look at that balancing act, and yes, it is a difficult one to be able to maintain huge focus on attack and get the other two improved. But being very open and honest with you guys, the other two do need to improve from a statistical point of view a little bit to help bolster this season’s league position for the future.
“Glasgow have the attacking philosophy and everyone is passionate about it. I’m passionate about it. We will keep that developing.”