DANNY WILSON has admitted to being surprised that no players will be released back to Glasgow by Scotland during the Autumn Nations Cup. 

The Warriors have 12 players on duty with Gregor Townsend’s national squad, and another six unavailable for tonight’s match against Ulster because of injury. Usual practice during international windows is for several of those not needed by Scotland on any given weekend to be freed to play for their clubs instead, but a combination of Covid restrictions and the decision to play PRO14 games on a Monday led Townsend to conclude he could not keep up that practice. 

“It was a little bit of a shock to get the news that 35 players would be held back,” the Glasgow head coach said, referring to the total size of the Scotland squad. “You only take 31 to a World Cup, so it’s a big number. Scotland holding 35 players with zero release is a different challenge, let’s say.

“Normally if you’ve got 12 players in the squad and say six or seven are playing, you get those four or five back. Even if they come back really late, like team-run day, you get those quality players back. We’re not going to be in that circumstance this year. As it stands at the moment, we were told that the 35 - it was 36 at one point - will be held for the whole campaign.”

Asked if he had been able to speak to Townsend about the issue, Wilson continued: 

“No, not really, if I’m honest. It was a decision that was announced to us, so we’ve just got to get on with it and that’s what we’ll do.

“We might have to dip into Super6 players, we might have to dip into local players - which I don’t know anything about at the moment because they’re not playing any rugby. There will be a positive: we will unearth some players. We will look back at this period long, long term and say we got some good players through for the future for Glasgow and Scotland. In the short term we get on with it.”

Wilson has already responded to the challenge by signing Lewis Bean on a short-term loan from Northampton, and the lock has been named as one of six replacement forwards for what the coach expects to be a bruising up-front battle in Belfast. Stirling County’s Super6 scrum-half Caleb Korteweg has now been registered but is not in this matchday 23, and the Warriors also hope to bring in a stand-off given last week’s news that Adam Hastings will be out for several months recovering from shoulder surgery.

Wilson has made seven changes in all from the team that began last week’s loss to Leinster, but only two in the pack, where tighthead Enrique Pieretto comes in for his first start and Kiran McDonald returns at lock. Glenn Bryce is at full-back, Ratu Tagive takes over from the rested Tommy Seymour on the right wing, and Robbie Fergusson and Stafford McDowall form a new centre combination. The fifth change to the backs from the 32-19 defeat by the champions is at scrum-half, where Jamie Dobie comes in for George Horne.

Glasgow have won only one of their four league games to date, and there is little doubt that they face a tough few weeks, particularly compared to the Irish and Welsh teams, who are less badly affected by call-ups and call-offs. But Wilson still has serious ambitions of doing well this season, knowing that the key is to get his young, untried players up to speed as quickly as possible.

“I think at the moment our aim has got to be to make the play-offs,” he insisted. “In the challenging circumstances that we’re in, that will remain our focus.”


Glasgow Warriors: G Bryce; R Tagive, R Fergusson, S McDowall, N Matawalu; P Horne, J Dobie; A Seiuli, G Stewart, E Pieretto, R Harley, K McDonald, R Wilson (captain), T Gordon, T Ioane. Substitutes: J Matthews, A Allan, D Rae, L Bean, H Bain, F Lokotui, S Kennedy, B Thomson.

Ulster: M Lowry; C Gilroy, L Marshall, S Moore, M Faddes; I Madigan, J Cooney; J McGrath, J Andrew, M Moore, K Treadwell, S Carter (captain), M Rea, S Reidy, M Coetzee. Substitutes: A McBurney, E O’Sullivan, G Milasinovich, A O’Connor, M Rea, D Shanahan, W Johnston, E McIlroy.