Danny Wilson has confirmed that one of the few signings Glasgow have managed to complete during the coronavirus lockdown, Leone Nakarawa, will not be available to him for the derby double-header.
“His wife was due end of July, so obviously he’s been in Fiji. We gave him a bit of extra time with the family, with his wife having their first baby, and on top of that, the first flight out of Fiji was this week, so we’re in the process of getting him back.”
Given the circumstances which facilitated Nakarawa’s return to Glasgow – for those of you that live under rocks, former employers Racing 92 terminated his contract when Naks took an extended leave of absence after last year’s World Cup – Wilson was asked if he had any concerns about when the off-loading maestro would arrive.
“I am confident (he’ll come back) I’m not foreseeing any issues, but you have to wait and see don’t you? Up to now – for very much the right reasons – we’ve given him that bit of grace, like we would for anybody to spend time with the family in these milestone events. Hopefully, all is well for him coming back, which I’m sure it will be.
“When I recruited Leone it was very much with a “back-row first”, mindset. I thought we needed to add in the back-row, pre-Covid. He gives us flexibility and cover, and adds an on-the-ball presence in the back-row. When they (Gray, Cummings and Nakarawa) are all available, they’ll cause quite a selection headache.”
On top of Nakarawa’s absence, Wilson also revealed that he’ll be without Kyle Steyn and Aki Seiuli are also likely to miss out on pro rugby’s return to Scotland.
“Kyle Steyn’s had a hamstring injury which will delay his availability until we get a full assessment, and Aki broke his thumb a couple of weeks ago. It’s a short term cast – so he’ll be out of that pretty quickly – but he’ll probably miss both games.”
Wilson also teased that he has a surprise in store for the full-back spot, seeing as with Ruairidh Jackson’s retirement and last season’s failure to replace Stuart Hogg, Glasgow don’t have a recognised man to cover the back-field.
“It was never the plan not to have an out and out full-back to put it bluntly, but post-Covid we’ve been hit with restrictions. We’ve looked at in a slightly different way, so you might see a little bit of a surprise at full-back, something we’ve been working on training. I’ll leave it up to you guys to guess.
“I’ve got a gameplan and tactics to go into the game, which I won’t make public for obvious reasons, but over the years Glasgow and Edinburgh have built pretty potent squads. Cockers has done an outstanding job at Edinburgh. What we’ve seen from them, in the last year especially, is they’ve developed their game to play at speed as well. They’ve got a back three which are a real threat with real potent runners.”
On the same day that the conference with Danny Wilson took place, it was also announced that namesake Ryan and Fraser Brown would split captaincy duties.
“I’ve done it once before, (picked co-captains) normally you’d just pick a single person for the season but this season’s changed quite dramatically. We’re going to lose the internationals for 8 weeks pre-Christmas and then for the Six Nations post-Christmas.
Ryan and Fraser complement each other in terms of their leadership styles. Ryan’s a real character, he’s very popular within the group, he boosts morale, and then you’ve got Fraser who’s on top of driving standards and studies the game inside out.
I’ve been really impressed with how Ryan deals with individual players. He’s got really good relationship skills and emotional intelligence.”
Although, unsurprisingly, playing most of his cards close to his chest, Wilson may have revealed that Brown will be starting on Saturday, as of the two candidates, Brown would be the referee’s point of contact.
“I enjoy being in that role, it’s something that I’ve done in the not too distant past. During the Six Nations, Stuart (McInally) and I would share communication with the referee to save Hoggy having to burst a lung running 50-60m from the back”, said Brown.
Despite being born in Edinburgh, and being on the capital side’s books at the beginning of his career, Brown spoke of his “love” for the Warriors where he was able to rebuild that career which was initially blighted by injury.
“If it wasn’t for Glasgow and the coaches they had there at the time – Gregor (Townsend) and Shade (Munro) – I possibly wouldn’t have a career right now. I’m hugely indebted to what they’ve allowed me to do, and get back involved in professional rugby, so that love and that loyalty to the club; it’s huge.”
Due to the Covid-enforced recruitment pause and the make-up of the current squad, Brown is aware that – like the mystery full-back and Nakarawa – he may be asked to show his versatility and fill in at openside flanker.
“I’ve had a few conversations with Danny about it, more so as covering. It’s not something I’m looking to do on a weekly basis – I’m a hooker first and foremost – but when required to do that role for the team I’m comfortable to do that as well.”
Callum Gibbins, as expected, left at the expiration of his contract, but the shock retirement of Matt Smith – at only 23 years of age – sees the Warriors’ squad show only Chris Fusaro and Tom Gordon as recognised opensides.
“I spoke to Matty a couple of weeks ago. Obviously, a very distressing situation for himself and those around him. We, as a union in Scottish rugby and at Glasgow, the processes we’ve put in place over the last couple of years have been pretty good in identifying people on a day-to-day basis, making sure they have avenues to talk whether within the team or outside of rugby; there’s things we can do to develop that further.
It’s very difficult in a hidden illness, as a lot of mental health issues are, it almost requires someone speaking out to see that there’s an issue there. From a player point of view, it’s something we could get a little bit more education on. If we can better educate players to be more aware, we can make those conversations a lot more casual and common than currently.”