AFTER two dress rehearsals against Edinburgh, opening night is in sight for Glasgow Warriors and Danny Wilson. The PRO14 fixture list will finally be released this week, with the first games due to take place at the start of next month, at which time the new, post-Dave-Rennie era will begin in earnest at Scotstoun.

Rennie’s are big shoes to fill. Not only did the New Zealander take Glasgow to the 2019 final and generally keep them competitive both in the league and in Europe, he was an imposing personality who arrived off the back of Super Rugby success with the Chiefs.

Wilson, by contrast, has become Glasgow’s head coach after two low-profile seasons as one of Gregor Townsend’s assistant coaches with Scotland. He is well aware that many outsiders saw his move as no more than a marriage of convenience between club and coach, in stark contrast to what was viewed as a statement of ambition by the SRU when Rennie was recruited. And he knows that a significant section of the Warriors fan base was underwhelmed by his appointment.

But the 44-year-old insists that he is where he wants to be. At Glasgow by choice, not coercion, and back as a head coach, a position he held first with Wales Under-20s and then Cardiff Blues.

“I had an opportunity to take the job with Glasgow Warriors as a head coach and that was 100 per cent what I wanted to do,” Wilson says. “I made that decision myself.

“I enjoyed the Scotland job and I learned a lot from it, and I had a further period on my contract. But I had an opportunity that I really wanted to take. I asked Gregor if he would allow me to take it. After several discussions, Gregor was excellent and said yes, if you really want to do it, go and do it.

“I had a taste of international rugby and I certainly want to go back to it one day, but I think my future lies in head coaching for the minute. I certainly wasn’t pushed out the door. It was more the lure of going back to being a head coach at a club like Glasgow Warriors. It’s such a big club, and an exciting job, and it was too good to turn down.

“What other people want to assume is up to them. I don’t see it as a backwards step, going from a forwards coach with a national team to a head coach with a team like Glasgow Warriors. The head coach is a bigger job, there’s no doubt about that.”

Since officially taking over from Rennie in June, Wilson has made it clear that he has no intention of trying to re-invent the wheel at Scotstoun when so many aspects of the team were working perfectly well. But while the Glasgow attack in full flight is a thing of beauty, the  defence can be an unsightly beast, and so, while insisting he will remain true to the team’s expansive style, Wilson is convinced it must be tempered by some calm pragmatism.

“First of all, it will still maintain the identity of playing a fast, attacking style of rugby,” he says when asked what he expects the Warriors team to look like once they have hit their stride. “That’s important. But there’s a balancing act that needs to be achieved. There are times when we have to be more pragmatic and manage games better.

“Glasgow can play some outstanding attacking rugby and score five tries, but sometimes that high risk can also lead to conceding four tries, and in the bigger games it’s about trying to get a better understanding of staying in the arm wrestle. Yes, they’re exciting games and yes, we want to play rugby, but we don’t have to play all the rugby. We need to be defensively a lot more solid.

“So that’s what Glasgow will look like, and at the same time, over the next couple of years, it’s my responsibility to develop some younger players and bring them through. We need to do that while dealing with the difficulties that Covid has left, including the financial restraints. So we will have restrictions in the future, but it is great to have continued support from our sponsors – the likes of SP Energy

Developing those younger players quickly will be a necessity in a season that has two inter- national windows, the Nations Cup then the Six Nations, which will deprive Wilson of a dozen to 15 senior players. He thinks it inevitable that his shadow squad will show some inconsistency, but even so, he has high expectations of Glasgow, and, although loath to specify precisely what would constitute success in his first campaign, is in no doubt that competing towards the top of their PRO14 Conference will be the minimum demand.

“When I took the job, I saw a two, three-year project of challenging for trophies, and that’s still our aim. There’s no doubt about that.

“This year is quite a broken year, almost between two squads. We’re probably down on depth a little bit, so we’ve got to find ways of growing that from within.

“I don’t think we’ll put any goals in terms of winning the league. We’ve got to look at ensuring that when our internationals are away, the best teams we can put out will still win games.

“We’ve got to improve our league position. Play-offs have to be the aim. That won’t change.”