RYAN WILSON and Callum Gibbins don’t really have a plan for how the dynamic of their co-captaincy should work on those occasions when they both end up on the park at the same time this season.
The back-row duo reckon that they are such close pals, and the leadership roles in modern professional rugby are so widely spread across the whole team, that it will really take care of itself.
“We’re co-captains, regardless. We’ll both talk to the referee and see what he says about it,” shrugs Wilson, when asked who will take the lead in on-field negotiations.
“To be honest, we’ve not spoken a lot about it. We only had our first leaders’ meeting on Thursday night because we wanted to focus purely on the season, looking at our skills and letting the boys get on with their pre-season, before we got into things like culture,” he adds.
Gibbins interjects –
“When you’re on the field captaining a side you very rarely make a decision my yourself anyway. Very often, if I’m captain I’ll talk to the other leaders. Whoever goes to the ref to say we want to take a shot or go to the corner … it is irrelevant.
“I don’t see it changing much from last year. When Ryan is playing he will be the captain, he’ll run out and when he’s away I’ll take over. That’s the way I see it going,” adds the 29-year-old flanker, who has been at the club less than a year and clearly has no desire to steal anybody else’s thunder.
“It was quite a nerve-racking experience coming over here and not knowing anyone,” reflects the New Zealander, when asked about his rapid ascent as a team leader. “The only people I really knew were the coaches, so I was quite embarrassed when Rens [head coach Dave Rennie] put me in the leadership group and made me captain [covering the games Wilson missed].
“I didn’t think it would happen so fast. But I was excited to do it and honoured. I thought that if I showed I was here for the right reasons then things would work out.”
The pair are close off the park, so much so that Wilson jokes about spending more time with Gibbins than he does his wife.
“When I arrived at the club, Ryan was one of the first guys to make me feel welcome. He’s a team man and the boys love him. He’s got the backing of the team, 100 percent. When I first played with him I thought he was a guy I wanted to follow. When I see someone like that I see a leader,” says Gibbins.
“Cal is one of those guys who gives it his all when he’s out on the pitch,” says Wilson, returning the complement. “In fitness testing … everything … he pushes the limits and he leads by example. That’s what you get from him. He’s a grafter and the boys will follow him.”
“He is a typical Kiwi: plays the guitar, likes a good yarn and is always around to go for a beer with. He has played Super Rugby and he brings qualities from there as well.”
The pair clearly have an awful lot in common, but Rennie believes that they also have complimentary differences –
“Ryan brings good emotion and a connection with the young men while Cal is very analytical solution focus focussed, so they are a good blend. We’ve got 53 guys in the squad so that is a hell of a lot for one person to deal with. We’ve got a leadership group but these two will share the role, and the fact that Callum is available all year while Ryan will potentially be away with Scotland works really well for us.”
Neither player is due to get game time in this afternoon’s pre-season friendly against Harlequins in Perth, but they will be in attendance to support the team as the Warriors look to set the tone for a season which they fully expect to deliver more success in both the PRO14 and in Europe than was managed last year.
It was confirmed yesterday that Warriors will host English giants Saracens in their opening Heineken Champions Cup clash on Sunday 14th October. The last time the two sides met, in the quarter-finals of the same tournament two seasons ago, it did not go well, with the Londoners romping to a 38-13 victory at Allianz Park.
Despite that set-back, and a failure to fight fire with fire when they came up against Europe\s real heavy-hitters last year, Wilson is bullish about his team’s aspirations for his year.
“It will be good to get up against Saracens again. Not just for us but the fans,” he says. “We will be looking to make the quarters and go on to win it. That is our goal. We are in this competition to win it. That’s what we want to do.”
“There is no point playing in the competition if you don’t think you can win it,” adds Gibbins, in support of his partner in crime. “A lot of people are scared to say we want to win. Well, we want to win this thing.”