DANNY Wilson believes that the ability to respond quickly to Covid-related absences is set to become a vital factor for coaches in this new season, which begins for Glasgow today with a visit to Connacht.

Medical considerations have deprived the Warriors head coach of tighthead prop Zander Fagerson and openside flanker Tom Gordon for the PRO14 match in Galway, and although neither player has tested positive for the virus, the pair will be out for a fortnight. With the number of cases still on the increase, Wilson is braced to deal with similar situations in the months to come, and expects the depth and versatility of his and other squads to be put to the test.

“Neither of them are ill, neither of them have tested positive,” the coach said of Fagerson and Gordon, who join five injured players on the sidelines. “It’s this protocol that we’re all involved in, which is a contact of a contact, that scenario which has meant they have to isolate for that 14-day period.

“We’re all expecting more and more of that, unfortunately. Hopefully we can reduce that risk as much as possible, but the risk is always going to be there. While the numbers have grown quite considerably in Glasgow we’re probably substantially at risk when boys live in Glasgow.”

Having begun his isolation before Fagerson, Gordon may be back in action next weekend to face the Scarlets at Scotstoun, although Wilson declined to say specifically when either man would be available. Fagerson in particular is a significant loss today, and while the coach currently has cover for Gordon in the back row, he knows that could change when the autumn international window opens later this month and around 15 of his players are called up.

“We have some plans in place for how we deal with this when the international period kicks off,” Wilson continued. “You’ve got the injuries on top of that that you normally will get - most teams are around the 15-20 per cent injury rate at any given time in the season, so you’re going to have that to deal with. Then you’re going to have the Covid responses that we’ve got to be ready for, and they come very quickly, as I’ve experienced, and things can change literally overnight.

“So that’s part of our challenge. Same for us, same for everybody. So you certainly have to have Plan B up your sleeve to cover situations that may be quite serious if they come. If they don’t come, then great, but if they do we’ve got to be ready for it.

“I think whoever deals with this challenge the best is ultimately going to have the most success. I think there will be times during this year where we’ll see teams and selections and say ‘Where’s that one come from?’ But they’ll probably be related to the situation we’re all dealing with.”

The five injured players who miss out this afternoon are Sam Johnson, Lee Jones, Sean Kennedy, Kiran McDonald and Kyle Steyn, with Johnson the most likely to be back in contention for next weekend’s home game against Scarlets. Yet despite those absences, Wilson’s squad to face Connacht still looks a reasonably strong one, and with only four changes from the final outing of last season against Edinburgh - two in the back division and two up front - there is a helpful element of continuity within the group.

The alterations behind the scrum see Stafford McDowall take over from Johnson in his favoured position of inside centre and Robbie Nairn replace Ratu Tagive on the wing, while in the pack D’Arcy Rae is in for Zander Fagerson and Chris Fusaro is at openside instead of Gordon.

From Huw Jones at full-back to Ratu Tagive as 23rd man, the squad has pace and power throughout, and Glasgow will travel buoyed by the knowledge that they have visited The Sportsground on the opening day in three of the past four seasons and won every time. Having said that, conditions in Galway are always unpredictable, and Bundee Aki in particular is an ever-present threat in the home ranks.

Glasgow Warriors (v Connacht at The Sportsground, today 5.15pm): H Jones; T Seymour, N Grigg, S McDowall, R Nairn; A Hastings, A Price; O Kebble, F Brown (captain), D Rae, R Harley, S Cummings, R Wilson, C Fusaro, M Fagerson. Substitutes: G Turner, A Seiuli, E Pieretto, R Gray, F Lokotui, G Horne, P Horne, R Tagive.

Connacht: J Porch; P Sullivan, T Farrell, B Aki, A Wootton; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham, G Thornbury, Q Roux, J Butler (captain), C Oliver, P Boyle. Substitutes: J Murphy, J Duggan, J Aungier, N Murray, S Masterson, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, S Arnold.

Referee: C Evans (Wales).