DANNY Wilson has handed new boy Josh McKay the opportunity to provide the spark which can re-ignite Glasgow Warriors’ season following last week’s depressing defeat away to Benetton.  

The full-back – who was signed in February but couldn’t move to Scotland until two weeks ago because he was under contract with Canterbury in his native New Zealand – will make his debut for the club in tonight’s United Rugby Championship clash against the Dragons at Scotstoun. 

“Josh arrived a couple of weeks ago and he looks exciting – he’s a sharp attacking threat,” said the head coach. “This is his first game for the Warriors, so I am excited about getting him on the pitch, and I think the supporters – rightly so – are excited as well.  

“Playing at home on a fast track in his first match will hopefully suit him, and we’ll build from there and see how we get him integrated with the rest of the squad.” 

Warriors have also been boosted by the return of Ali Price and Zander Fagerson – their two Lions tourists last summer – who were rested for the Benetton match, as well captain Ryan Wilson, who was supposed to play for the Barbarians versus Samoa at Twickenham last Saturday before that game was called off due to a Covid outbreak. 

However, there is no Ewan Ashman because his loan deal, which was supposed to run until the end of the season, was cut-short just days after his arrival at Scotstoun. The 21-year-old hooker – who made his Scotland debut during the Autumn – was recalled by Sale Sharks to sit on the bench against Saracens last weekend, and while Wilson said at the time that he was confident about having the player back this week, that ended up being wishful thinking. 

“He was always their player so there was always the risk of him going back, but I didn’t think it would be before he’d even started, so it’s a bit disappointing,” conceded Wilson. 

“At the same time, it’s understandable – he’s their player not ours. We’ll see how the rest of the season progresses because the relationship between the clubs is still there.” 

Ashman’s early departure leaves Warriors thin on the ground at hooker, but Wilson indicated that he won’t be actively looking to recruit reinforcements in this specialist position. 

“We’ll see how we go,” he said. “At the moment, we’re waiting on developments with Fraser Brown [who was expected to be out until well into the New Year with a knee injury but is now hoping to be back within a month]. It’s quite a niggly assessment around when exactly he will return but it’s probably looking a bit more positive than it originally did, so that gives us some confidence. 

“Then we’ve got Johnny Matthews, George Turner and Grant Stewart as our three fit hookers, plus the young academy hooker Angus Fraser, who’s next in line but probably needs a bit more game-time and exposure.” 

Meanwhile, with centre Sam Johnson and winger Rufus McLean both being rested after spending the last month on Scotland duty, stand-off Ross Thompson is the only member of the Warriors backline to retain the same jersey this week as worn against Benetton last week.  

As well as McKay, Price and Argentinean winger Sebastian Cancelliere (making his home debut) being added to the side, there is positional switches for Cole Forbes (full-back to wing), Kyle Steyn (wing to outside-centre) and Sione Tuipolotu (outside to inside-centre). 

Argentinean stand-off Domingo Miotti is in line for a debut off the bench. 

In the pack, Zander Fagerson’s return sees Oli Kebble shift to loose-head and Jamie Bhatti rested, while Wilson is a direct swap-in for the also rested Matt Fagerson at blindside flanker. 

“As I said through the week, we addressed the performance at the weekend, and we addressed the last 90 seconds which was the most disappointing part for me,” said Wilson. 

“You go to places like that after four weeks of no rugby and potentially the game’s going to be a little bit disjointed but if you can go away and win ugly then that’s the mark of growing, and it gives you some togetherness to build on those performances.” 
“I know we are entering a period of the season when we get all the boys together for the long haul, and last season when we had that we built nicely, so that will be the aim again now. 

“We’re looking for an improved performance this weekend. There has certainly been a reaction in training, and we need to get back on track to how we were before playing Treviso.” 

Second-row Scott Cummings – who celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday – is still out with a shoulder injury but is hopeful of being back in contention when Warriors kick-off their European Champions Cup campaign away to La Rochelle next Sunday. 

Glasgow Warriors (v Dragons at Scotstoun Stadium, Saturday 7.35pm): J McKay; S Cancelliere, K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, C Forbes; R Thompson, A Price; O Kebble, G Turner, Z Fagerson, R Harley, R Gray, R Wilson©, R Darge, J Dempsey. Replacements: J Matthews, N McBeth, M McCallum, L Bean, J Dobie, D Miotti, N Grigg. 

Unavailable for selection: Simon Berghan, Fraser Brown, Scott Cummings, Peter Horne, Tom Lambert, Ewan McQuillin.