AFTER the longest break from rugby they have known, the Glasgow Warriors squad now have the shortest summer holiday on record before returning to work and starting preparation for next season. It is only a single week off, but at least it offers a little breathing space in which to reflect on the truncated campaign which has just ended and look forward to what will be an unrelentingly demanding 2020-21 season.

Danny Wilson has been in position as head coach for several months now, but you always learn more from actual games than you do from training, planning or theorising, and the two matches against Edinburgh have provided him with some valuable material with which to work. As player recruitment has been frozen, he knows who and what he has got to work with for the foreseeable future. If he were the only coach in that position, the challenge would be a frightening one, but as everyone is in the same or a very similar boat it may in fact become one he welcomes.   

Wilson has already coped well with the one big issue arising from this limited room for manoeuvre - who to choose at full-back for the two derbies. Huw Jones made the odd error, as anyone would in their first games in a new position, but he looked comfortable enough in the role to suggest that this short-term experiment could become a longer-term solution. By definition, the Scotland centre’s unavailability at 13 cuts down on Wilson’s midfield options, although the loss there looks like being more than counterbalanced by the gains at 15. 

With Glenn Bryce only contracted until Christmas and Rufus McLean untried back-up, the position could yet cause Wilson headaches, but his adroit handling of the problem has to augur well for the future. And if the coach applies the same wisdom to similarly thorny problems, the team will have a fighting chance of remaining competitive towards the top of their conference.

However, the main issue for Wilson, and indeed for new attack coach Jonny Bell, will be one of overall ethos rather than individual selections. Specifically, they need to strike a delicate balance between tightening up in defence and maintaining the team’s traditional commitment to offence.

Wilson has already talked about the importance of making better decisions in the defensive third, and anyone who has seen Glasgow give away unnecessary scores by playing too adventurously in their own 22 will understand where he is coming from. But it is hard to school players into making more sensible, percentage decisions while at the same time encouraging them to play instinctively. The ability to switch rapidly between the rational and the radical is a talent not given to all.

In both games against Edinburgh, the Warriors’ emphasis, deliberately or otherwise, erred too heavily on the defensive side. That is not to say that everything the team did was dictated by the coaching staff - indeed, Wilson said after the first match that his players had kicked away too much possession - but it did suggest that the players may need a bit of time to find that balance.

In that regard, Bell has a particularly important role to play, because as attack coach he has to be something akin to the keeper of the flame, the custodian of the Warriors’ belief in expansive rugby. Of course in general he will have to work in tandem with Wilson, but there could be specific instances where he has to argue the opposite case to the head coach.

Having spent a lot of time as a defence coach, Bell is also eminently capable of taking a balanced view himself of the two sides of the game. And, if there were offensive shortcomings both in the 15-3 win over Edinburgh last Friday as well as in the 30-15 loss six days earlier, it should be said that for the bulk of both games - the first hour of the defeat, the full 80 minutes of the win - the team’s defence was close to exemplary.

There is a lot for Wilson to work on, and it may well be a month or two into the new season before we see Glasgow at their free-flowing, unstoppable best. But, undistinguished as both derbies were, perhaps they proved that some modest progress has already been made.