GLASGOW Warriors hope that Ryan Wilson will have recovered from his knee injury in time to play against Saracens at the end of next month in their Champions Cup quarter-final. The 29-year-old has been ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations because of the ligament damage he sustained against Ireland, and the final match of the Championship, the Calcutta Cup game at Twickenham, takes place just a fortnight before the Warriors’ knockout tie at Allianz Park. But Glasgow assistant coach Kenny Murray, while admitting that it was still too early to tell precisely when Wilson might be back, said he regarded that European tie on 30 March as a possibility.
“It’s one of these things,” he said. “They’re saying he’ll definitely not be back for the end of the Six Nations, but from what we’ve been told he could be available towards that Saracens game.
“It just depends on the recovery. It could take eight weeks, it could take six weeks, it could take a bit longer. It’s hard to put a finger on how exactly long it will be. But there is a chance he could be back for Saracens.”
While Glasgow await news on Stuart Hogg and Huw Jones as well as Wilson, they have been able to welcome back Pete Horne, Rob Harley, Adam Hastings and Ali Price after that quartet were released from the Scotland camp. All four could take place in Saturday’s PRO14 fixture against Cardiff Blues, as could new signing Kyle Steyn.
Murray also revealed that the Warriors aim to guard against complacency during the run-in to the regular league season by treating the games in and around the Six Nations as a mini-league in their own right. Glasgow lost form badly this time last year after having a home play-off semi-final all but guaranteed with months to go, and were then unable to raise their game when it mattered most, against Scarlets in that semi.
Warriors in the mix
Ensuring that such a slump does not recur will be easier in one respect this time round, as the race for the top-three places in Conference A is far closer than it was in 2018, with the Warriors two points behind leaders Munster, and Ospreys, Cardiff, Connacht and the Cheetahs all still in the hunt. But, as Murray explained, nothing is being left to chance.
“We’ve set up a wee league table for this Six Nations window,” he said. “Before Ospreys” – a 9-3 home win at the end of January – “we started with zero points. Now we’ve got four points. So we’re just trying to focus in on the season.
“The context has dramatically changed from last year. Last year we were ahead – if you lose a game it doesn’t really matter, does it? Now if you lose a game you’re under real pressure, because you’ve got teams behind you.
“Depending on what way you look at it, it could be a negative thing in terms of you want to be 20 points ahead, but we’re looking at it that you’ve got to perform. If we don’t perform then we’re under real pressure. So it does help motivate guys a wee bit more than maybe it [did] last year.”
That win against Ospreys at Scotstoun was one of the less entertaining outings of the season, to put it mildly, with heavy weather minimising the prospect of running rugby. But, while critical of aspects of his squad’s performance, Murray was satisfied with the outcome.
“It was a tough game – I reckon we’ve played probably better and lost at times over the last couple of years. It was pretty frustrating. We decided to play against the wind and we felt we could turn round and win the game, but we probably just weren’t clinical enough in the second half. We got ourselves in good positions and just weren’t clinical enough. We know we need to be better. No excuses.
“The key thing for us was the four points. We needed the four points – it was one of these eight-pointer games where if we’d lost that game Ospreys were right up our tail. They were five points behind us so we’re now eight points ahead of them. So the points were the most important thing for us.”
Four or five points will be just as important on Saturday in Cardiff, and with Connacht coming to Scotstoun the following Friday, Murray knows his team could gain vital ground on two of their play-off rivals. “It’s crucial now, isn’t it? Cardiff and then Connacht – they’re 10 [and eight respectively] points behind us now, so if we can knock Cardiff off and go 13 or 14 ahead and then the same with Connacht a week later . . .
“I think Connacht play Cheetahs this week, so you’d expect them to win that. It’s two huge games for us: win them and that helps us stay on Munster’s coat-tails. We’ve got some hard games coming up towards the end of the season, so we need to make sure that we do well in the next few weeks.”