HAVING enjoyed an extended paternity leave back home in Fiji, Leone Nakarawa will return to Scotland this week and should resume training shortly, according to Danny Wilson. The Warriors coach revealed last week that Nakarawa would not be involved in either of this month’s two games against Edinburgh, and admitted he was not sure when precisely the Fijian forward would be back in the country. But yesterday Wilson sounded a lot more confident that he will soon be able to begin working with the talismanic 32-year-old.
“He will be back this week,” he said of Nakarawa, who began his second spell as a Glasgow player on a short-term deal at the start of the year but has since agreed to stay on for the coming season. “He’s on a flight this week. Then we’ll have to go through the normal process as you do with anyone flying back into the country. Hopefully it won’t be long before we get him on the training ground.”
Having finally had their PRO14 play-offs ended by Saturday’s 30-15 loss to Edinburgh, the Warriors will not have another game between Friday night’s Murrayfield return and the beginning of the new season on the first weekend in October, giving Nakarawa ample time to get up to speed. Wilson will make some changes for the derby in order to see some more squad members in competitive action before the 2020-21 campaign, but he is disinclined to regard it as a glorified trial match, being convinced of the importance of going into the truncated close season with a win under his belt.
“I think it will be a balance,” he said of his selection plans. “We’re aware now that we don’t have another game after this for four weeks. We probably need to think about combinations of players that may well lead into that first league game and players who will be available for us. A lot of players will be available for that first block, but then we will lose them for long periods of time .”
With Fiji due to take part in the Eight Nations tournament, Nakarawa is likely to be among those players unavailable to Wilson for around six weeks from mid-October, along of course with many of Glasgow’s Scotland contingent. As the coach is looking on Nakarawa as primarily a back-row player, that could well be the area which will be thinnest on the ground during the Test window, especially if openside Tom Gordon is called up by Gregor Townsend. Gordon came off the bench on Saturday, while Matt Fagerson began in what to him was the unfamiliar No 7 jersey.
Both Gordon and Fagerson will again be involved on Friday, according to the coach, who otherwise declined to specify who would be in and who out. “There are definitely a few changes we will make,” Wilson continued. “We won’t make massive, wholesale, complete changes, but we will make enough that it will be noticeable. We do want to look at a couple of people.
“There are maybe one or two we would have looked at who maybe aren’t quite ready – returning from injuries or niggles. I’m talking in riddles a bit because I don’t want to give everything away, but you’ll see that.
“The reality is we want to win a derby: we just lost one on the weekend and no-one likes losing two derbies. It’s important for us to go with the mindset to win and perform well. We’ve got one eye now on preparing for the league and this could be the last opposition we have prior to the league, so there’s a few things we will look at there.
“Between the games we’ll have had a look at enough people, as you’ll see when we come to selection, to make genuine decisions around the first league match. We have a couple of young boys we’ll look to expose maybe not quite now but later – the plan is definitely to do that.
“You don’t want to come off two losses regardless of what they are, whether they’re your first hit out or dead rubbers. You want to win your last game before you go into the next league. There’s an experimental part of it, but there’s a pride part too.
“This feels like a normal Monday to me, players coming in. If it’s a win there’s a bounce, if it’s a loss, heads are flat, and that’s where we are this morning. You can feel like the boys want to get back into that game on Friday and get a win.”
This is far from a normal year, of course, and while teams would usually have a couple of friendlies to help prepare for the coming season, Wilson is still unsure whether that will be possible this time round. “We’ll do an internal hit-out, definitely. With the Covid situation we’re not sure what we can or can’t do with travel for non-essential matches; likewise there are teams who aren’t playing and aren’t ready to play, so who that opposition would be is the difficulty at the moment.
“It’s not quite as easy as it normally is to just jump into a friendly. We’ll do something internally and we’ll look to do something else, but I’ve got to find out what exactly we’re allowed to do. Worst-case scenario, an internal hit-out leading into the first league game.”