WHILE Greig Laidlaw, John Barclay and Tommy Seymour decided enough was enough after Scotland’s World Cup flop in Japan last year, fellow veteran Ryan Wilson wasn’t ready to call time on his international career at that stage – and despite having no involvement in the first four rounds of the Six Nations earlier this year, the 31-year-old still hasn’t given up on the prospect of adding to the 49 caps he has accumulated since making his debut against Wales way back during the 2013 Six Nations.
Wilson was one of Townsend’s most trusted lieutenants during the early part of his tenure as Scotland head coach, with the combative back-rower vice-captaining the side on a number of occasions, and even being entrusted with leading the team in their final World Cup warm-up match against Georgia last September. Now, while he appears to be at peace with the prospect that those days are over, he makes no secret of the fact that he would jump at the opportunity to bring up his half century in the Scotland jersey during the upcoming Autumn Test schedule if given half a chance.
Townsend will name his training squad for the series on Monday, so tomorrow’s game against the Scarlets at Scotstoun [kick-off 5.15pm on Sunday] will be the last chance for the Scotland hopefuls in the Glasgow Warriors squad to state their case for a call-up.
“I’d like to say it wasn’t on my radar but it’s something I love doing and would love to be back a part of,” said Wilson. “If any player who hasn’t retired tells you it isn’t in the back of their mind then they’re lying. It’s certainly something I want to push towards and see where I get, but the standard answer you’ll get from anyone is you’ve just got to keep your head down here [at club level] and see what happens.
“So, I’ll just carry on doing what I do here and if the time comes to get back to Scotland then I will definitely grab it with both hands because I’d love to be back in there.”
Wilson added that he hasn’t discussed his international future with Townsend. “No chat been had, I just need to work on my game and see where we’re at,” he said.
The match will be the first home game in 232 days for the Warriors, and after a frustrating loss away to Connacht in round one of the 2020-21 PRO14 campaign last weekend, Wilson says he and his team are ready to kick-start their campaign. However, he also recognises that the visitors will feel they have a point to prove after a narrow defeat at home to Munster in round one.
‘They are a dangerous team,” he said. “They obviously had a tough loss at the weekend so they need to bounce back as well.
“Dare I say it, we’re at home now – but does it make a difference [without fans in the ground]? I don’t know. I’m expecting the standard Scarlets rugby, they are dangerous with ball in hand but also kick a hell of a lot as well, so we need to be on our game there as well.
“We gave away 12 or 13 penalties against Connacht so that’s too many, and we were kicking ourselves afterwards because that indiscipline gave them territory where we didn’t want them to be. We had a meeting about it this week and it is one of the areas we need to improve, especially against a team like the Scarlets who have Leigh Halfpenny kicking over nine penalties last week.”
Wilson was primarily a No8 during the earlier years of his career but says he is quite happy to let 22-year-old Matt Fagerson – a leading contender for Scotland honours during the next month and half – to fulfil that role these says, while he slots in at blindside flanker.
“It doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to me,” he explains. “The reason I’m picked at six a lot is probably my lineout ability, whereas Matt’s a brilliant ball carrier and someone we want to get in the game.
“You wouldn’t want to step in his way and some of the stuff he did against Connacht last week was brilliant. For the team to win we’ve got to make sure these guys are in the right position to do what they do.”
Wilson will line-up directly opposite Blade Thomson, another veteran of Scotland’s ill-fated expedition to Japan, this weekend. Thomson had some nice touches for Scarlets against Munster last week and will also be keen to add to his current five cap haul during the next month and a half.
“I get on with Blade, he’s a really good bloke and a really good rugby player, so if you start focussing on single battles like that then that’s when you’ll come unstuck,” he said. “But, obviously, when we’re out on the field I’ll be wanting to outdo him because, firstly, it will help us win the game and beat them for Glasgow, and, secondly, it’ll probably cement my place ahead of him for Scotland.
“So, there’s probably something like that in the back of my mind but I don’t really read too much into it. I approach the game as it comes and they’ve also got some really good back-rows in there which we need to look out for. They have some really dangerous jackal threats.”