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Wilson weaves his way through rivals to take place at top table

Having had the option of signing for both Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors when he got the chance to move to Scotland last year, all logic would suggest that Ryan Wilson had taken the wrong one.

Not even the more heralded of two signings made from English Championship side Moseley as he joined Glasgow alongside former team-mate Ali Muldowney, who had been the Birmingham club’s player of the season before, the then 21-year-old back-row forward looked like being little more than a makeweight in the squad.

His calculation had been that, with the Killer Bs back row having just been broken up with Kelly Brown’s departure to Saracens, he would be in a contest with a younger man for the blindside flanker’s job and, in fairness, who knew at that stage just how impressive Rob Harley’s rookie season would be.

Wilson’s other position was No.8, though, pitting him against the two front-runners for that position at Test level. His prospects of forcing his way in on a regular basis looked even more remote by mid-season when Johnnie Beattie returned from injury to renew his friendly rivalry with Richie Vernon.

Even after Vernon left to join Sale Sharks it looked like Wilson had been done a bad turn by the biggest surprise in Andy Robinson’s World Cup squad selection when he left Beattie out, challenging him to prove himself with Glasgow.

Yet last weekend, while Vernon was sitting on the bench during Sale Sharks’ Amlin Challenge Cup tie and Beattie had been released to help Ayr’s British & Irish Cup bid, Wilson was alongside Harley helping drive Glasgow towards an important win over Bath and, as much as he respects his chief rival, he is determined to maintain the upper hand.

“Johnnie’s a great player, a really skilful player who is great at training and I get on with him really well, but it comes down to that shirt and I want it and there can’t be any hard feelings there,” he said.

“Johnnie understands. He went with Ayr to get some game time, did well down there and scored a try, but at the same time I’ve got to worry about myself and my game and that’s what I’m doing, focusing on myself, making sure I get better so that I deliver week in, week out and keep that shirt as long as possible.”

Last weekend’s performance was by no means Wilson’s first impressive effort in Europe’s top competition either since last season he took considerable satisfaction from picking up a man-of-the-match award against Wasps, a team he had trained with but been overlooked by after picking up a shoulder injury towards the end of his time with them. In fairness, he was offered a training contract by the High Wycombe club, but even what must have looked a relatively remote chance of first team rugby in the then Magners League and Heineken Cup proved more attractive and Wilson has justified his decision to back his ability.

Furthermore, while it is slightly ironic that Richie Gray -- Sale-bound at the end of the season -- was among those who persuaded him to go to Glasgow, what is arguably bad news for Beattie but excellent news for all else involved is that the Surrey-born player, whose mother hails from Motherwell, has found what is very much a home from home.

“I’ve found settling in easy. I get on with the boys really well and my girlfriend moved up and she loves it up here as well,” he said.

“The atmosphere’s like nothing I’ve ever known. I’ve been at quite a few clubs like Esher and London Scottish and a bit of time at London Irish and what not and clubs seem to form cliques where those who have been there for a few years are all together. Here, maybe because I knew a lot of the lads from the under-20s, like Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Peter Horne and Alex Dunbar as well as Richie, you just come in and straightaway you feel like you fit in. Every single boy you get on with so well.

“I could ‘phone any one of the lads and say ‘fancy going out for something to eat’ which I don’t think any other club does. You get your groups of people in most places don’t you, but here I could phone all 35 of the squad. Everyone enjoys one another’s company which is why I think we’re going so strong at the moment.”

Saying which, he acknowledges that they should have done much better against a team from the bottom half of the English Premiership than when sneaking past Bath thanks to a lucky bounce on Sunday, but even that is currently deemed a positive.

“We didn’t play very well and that’s the exciting thing going over to Leinster. If we put in a good performance I think we can do some damage over there. We can take the win but we can take a comfortable win if we click,” he said.

For all that he has already been part of a winning team in Dublin this season Wilson may soon learn that part of being Scottish is to fear such statements, worrying instead about the impact those words will have when pinned up in the European champions’ team room this week.

Those inclined to do so should, however, consider what his self-belief has already resulted in him achieving as an individual and consider what could happen if all of his new buddies start thinking similarly.

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