URC Grand Final: Bulls v Glasgow: Ryan Wilson backs his old team to triumph against the odds

Former Warriors captain believes Pretoria will not be as daunting a destination as Dublin would have been for Franco Smith's squad

Ryan Wilson
Ryan Wilson is now a member of Premier Sports' commentary team and will be in Pretoria for Saturday's URC final. Image: www.inpho.ie

RYAN Wilson can be rightly proud of his achievements as a member of the Glasgow team that won the 2015 PRO14 final – the last major trophy to date to have gone into the Scotstoun trophy cabinet. But, as he looks forward to Saturday’s URC Grand Final in his new guise as a Premier Sports commentator, the former Warriors captain believes it is about time a new generation of heroes emerged at his old club.

The conventional wisdom is that the Warriors will be up against it against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. They had little or no time to recover from that epic semi-final win over Munster last Saturday before travelling to South Africa, they will be playing at altitude, and they will be up against a team whose ferocious physicality was very much in evidence in their own semi-final victory against Leinster.

However, Wilson believes that, no matter the difficulties that Glasgow will have to confront at Loftus, they have a better chance of winning there than if they had had to make the shorter hop to Dublin instead. “I would rather play the Bulls in Pretoria,” the former back-row forward said today (Wednesday). “I don’t think I would like to go to Leinster – I’ve had too many upsets there.

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“It sounds crazy because of how good the Bulls are and the conditions that the Glasgow boys are about to face. But I just think it’s about time for Glasgow to put another trophy in the cabinet. 

Franco Smith [the head coach] has only been there for two years. But he’s made such big strides in the team that I think already people are going ‘Yeah, this is a team that should be winning something’.  With that attacking back line they’ve got, yes, this is a team that should be winning silverware.

“I genuinely believe this is a team that’s got something special. It’s not just the way they play, it’s the fighting spirit they put into every single match and pour into that jersey. 

“So, yes, I think the boys can do it. I hope they can replicate what we did in 2015 and go on and win the final.”

That 2015 team had to learn from adversity before finally lifting the trophy: they lost two semi-finals and then a final in the three years before that triumph. Similarly, this Warriors side has undergone the chastening experience of last year’s heavy defeat by Toulon in the Challenge Cup final. And, on a smaller scale, Wilson believes that the manner of their fightback from a shaky start last week against Munster can also stand them in good stead.

“That is almost what I take most confidence from,” he continued. “Richie Gray got the yellow card about 15 minutes in and they produced their best defence between the 15th minute and the 25th. They found a way to grind it out, they found a way to scramble and make up for the lost man. And they did the same again when Matt Fagerson was off [after being yellow-carded on the stroke of half-time].

“So, yeah, they didn’t start well, but they’ll look back at that and think well, if they’re under the pump and in a bit of trouble and got a yellow card, they are starting to find a way of dealing with it. And that’s what really, really impressed me at the weekend against Munster.

“There are plenty of young guys in there who learned from the experience last year,” Wilson added in reference to the 43-19 loss at the hands of Toulon. “I would go back to that Challenge Cup final and look at where things went wrong.

“You’ve got the likes of Tom Jordan who has really come on this season. At the weekend against Leinster he was brilliant.



“I would say to the young boys you don’t get many opportunities like this. We had one last year and didn’t quite get over the line in the final. You’ve got to take it with both hands.

“Last week Max Williamson came on against RG Snyman, and there was a shot in the 70th minute where it was crazy and it absolutely ended RG Snyman. The experience for guys like Max to be in a massive final is incredible.

“But at the end of the day they want to win it, and I’d be saying you don’t get many of these, let’s go and take it.

“It will certainly give the city a boost [if Glasgow win]. With how it’s worked out they’re going to struggle to get fans out to Pretoria, but I know there’s a watch party at Platform for  Warriors fans which is sold out already, so you know the fans back in Glasgow will be cheering the team on.

“Glasgow Warriors are really flying the flag for Scottish rugby at the moment. Edinburgh have been really disappointing this season with some of the names they’ve got in there, and I think people are looking to Glasgow to do the job for Scottish rugby.

“It could give everyone a boost, but certainly in Glasgow. Either way there’ll be a big party and if they win that trophy it’ll be incredible scenes. I would love to be in Glasgow but I’m equally happy to be out there and, when and if the boys do the job, I’ll be celebrating with them.

The brand of rugby they play – the boys talk about it in meetings – they want to represent the city, they want the fans to see a piece of them in the way they represent the club, and I certainly think they’ve done that.”


Ryan Wilson is part of the Premier Sports team bringing live coverage of the BKT United Rugby Championship Grand Final this Saturday from 4pm (UK) as Glasgow Warriors take on Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. Ryan joins a top Premier Sports team of Ross Harries, John Barclay, Stephen Ferris, Tom Shanklin, Thinus Delport, Chris Paterson and Rory Hamilton for an hour of build-up, live commentary and all the post-final reaction live on Premier Sports 1. Who will lift the 2024 URC trophy? Visit www.premiersports.com for more information.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. I’m not condoning what Wilson did but if everyone with a criminal conviction was banned from working, there would be few left in employment anywhere! Mind you, it would get rid of a number of politicians which wouldn’t be a bad thing (all the Covid rule breachers for a start)! And what about players who commit a criminal offence on the pitch in terms of reckless foul play, should they be made unemployed? Hoping that someone can demonstrate that Wilson made an apology for his offensive incident and therefore this issue can be put to bed.

  2. Leaving aside peoples views about RW, I think it’s ridiculous how the URC final is organised. Going back to a neutral (and non-altitude) venue for the final decided way in advance is much better for the spectacle, for fairness and for both sets of fans. Reading how Warriors scrambled desperately to get people and kit to Pretoria on the BBC today ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/articles/cz77knz7765o ) illustrates that it’s a crazy system for the teams too.

    Can’t see us getting this done on Saturday but will cheer them all the way and you never know – I thought the same about the Munster semi so what do I know! But Bulls looked hugely impressive and in control vs Leinster last weekend and when we played them last they had definitely taken their foot off the gas (with the game all but in the bag) during our near comeback in the 2nd half.

    • Warriors just need to be more professional. Leinster had their first training session in Pretoria on Monday.

    • Just read the BBC story about the travel arrangements. You imagine that its all lined up for professional sportsmen but its basically like arranging a last minute holiday for the family. Because no one knows who and where until a week before its impossible to pre-arrange travel etc. I dont know the answer but I guess its only an issue with South Africa teams being in the competition. It will make it very difficult for Glasgow with the altitude to contend with as well. Good Luck to them.

  3. Still really disappoints me that Mr Wilson gets these gigs on tv. It was bad enough he became Glasgow captain. He isn’t a role model- he’s a convicted criminal of assault .

    That being said I agree with his points re going to Pretoria vs Ireland

    • Are you saying that someone who makes a one-off mistake should never be forgiven? People with convictions should never be given jobs afterwards?

      • I’m not saying that. But I’m not saying they should be role models and put on a pedestal. I’m also yet to see an apology from him.

        Great servant to Glasgow yes but shouldn’t have been captain.

        • Why should he be a role model? This obsession people have with making sportspeople into role models is a load of old tosh. He’s there to do a job, albeit one on a sports field, there’s no obligation for him to be a role model to anyone other than his kids.

          • And also, Ryan Wilson was punished at the time in court and by the SRU, his debt to society was paid a long time ago.

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