HE doesn’t know who the match will be against, and there is a very real chance that there won’t be any match at all, but Glasgow Warriors head coach Danny Wilson says he is hopeful that Leone Nakarawa can play his first game of rugby since last February next weekend.
As it stands, Warriors are supposed to be in central France playing Lyon in the European Champions Cup next Saturday, but with French clubs being urged by their government to pull out of cross-border elite sport for the time being, the likelihood of that happening appears slim.
If, as anticipated, the French clubs do withdraw from the next two weekends of the Champions Cup leading to the tournament being paused by organisers EPCR, then the logical next step for Scotland’s pro teams would be to get the 1872 Cup second-leg clash which was postponed due to a frozen pitch on Friday night played.
Failing that, Warriors will be left with a free weekend, which will be a major frustration given how disjointed their season has been so far (with four games having been either cancelled or postponed due to Covid or the weather), and given how desperately they need to build some sort of momentum before morale drops to an unsalvageable level.
“If Leone gets through this week’s training, he’ll be available for next weekend,” said Wilson. “He’s made massive leaps recently and trained fully with us last week.
The giant Fijian was late returning to Glasgow after spending lockdown in his homeland and was then side-lined for three months with a knee injury.
“It’s not 100% certain yet because he’s still got to get through the second stage of contact training – but if he gets through that, we should be able to get him out there in some way, shape or form,” added the coach.
“Our attitude is the same as it always is – come Monday we’ll train and prepare for Lyon,” Wilson replied, when asked about the uncertainty surrounding next weekend’s game. “We’ve sat down as a coaching group and done our preview on them so we can deliver that to the players. We’ll carry on with that plan until we’ll hear otherwise.”
Nakarawa’s return is well timed because fellow second-row Lewis Bean – who has been with the club on a loan deal from Northampton Saints for the last two months – has returned home.
“His loan period with us is now up, which is a real shame,” said Wilson. “When the international period kicks off again, we would need the likes of Lewis, but I don’t think we’ll have him. I’ll be trying my hardest to get him back, because he’s been important to us.”
Elsewhere in the team, Wilson indicated that he remains committed to giving youngsters and fringe players a chance to prove themselves on the pitch. Ross Thompson and Rufus McLean were left frustrated on Friday after their first starts for the club were put on ice by the arctic conditions.
“In any game, the objective is to go out and win, and that won’t change even though results lately have been difficult,” he stressed. “But it will probably also provide the opportunity for us to play a few guys.
“We were going to play a couple on Friday and we’re probably planning to play a couple next week, to use the opportunity to have a look at boys and give them the exposure.
“This season is probably about that – trying to learn as many lessons as we can about as many people. I’ve got a lot of decisions to make about people I’ve inherited and the only way I can make those decisions is to get them on the field, because there’s no other rugby to watch them in.
“In a normal season, we’d have plenty people watching Super6 games and I’d have to do that to assess whether we are giving guys contracts for the future. Those are really tough calls this year when boys haven’t been on the field.”
Wilson also spoke about his eagerness to conclude a deal soon which will bring Duncan Weir back to Scotstoun next season.
The 29-year-old stand-off left the club in 2016 to seek regular game-time at Edinburgh, and then moved to Worcester Warriors in 2018. His form recent seasons has led to a recall to the Scotland set-up, and with Adam Hastings leaving to join Gloucester next season, there is going to be a vacancy at No10 – which Weir has stated he is keen to fill.
“He’s a player that I highly rate – I think he’s a very good stand-off,” said Wilson. “And from the minute I took the job, I have been clear that it’s a position I’ve wanted to strengthen.
“There are a couple of situations where we are hoping to add to that, and when I can I’ll update you a bit more.”