A NEW YEAR is about to begin, and Danny Wilson hopes it will bring with it the return of some semblance of normality for Glasgow Warriors.

As things stand, 2021 is at least set to start off in traditional fashion, with a PRO14 and 1872 Cup match against Edinburgh. The game on Saturday at BT Murrayfield should have been the second leg of the derby double-header, but today’s game at Scotstoun had to be postponed when 20 Glasgow players had to self-isolate, with four of them later testing positive for Covid.

That came on the back of the cancellation of the Warriors’ Champions Cup game against Lyon a week earlier, but, with no further positive tests  last week, the match at the national stadium is set to go ahead as planned.

For Wilson’s team it will be the first game in three weeks, for Edinburgh the first in a fortnight, but the Glasgow coach expects both sides to shrug off any rustiness and produce the usual high-energy battle.

“Both squads when fully loaded are two really strong squads that will go hammer and tongs at each other,” he said. “Derbies are the best games for me, and they’re the most exciting games. For me, any derbies that I’ve been involved in are the closest thing to internationals. There’s the intensity, you know each other inside out, and therefore selectors will pick off the back of those games.

“There will still be that niggle, that competitiveness. The players will still know that off the back of that game they go into Six Nations camp where they’re all fighting for international opportunities.”

Wilson’s first two games in charge of Glasgow were against Edinburgh when rugby resumed at the tail-end of last season, and after losing the first match 30-15 the Warriors won the second 15-3. The coach has not had his troubles to seek since then, and his team have won only two PRO14 games this season as well as being thrashed 42-0 by Exeter Chiefs in their only Champions Cup match.

What made that defeat all the more humiliating was that Glasgow were close to full strength, Wilson having been able to select the Scotland internationals who were missing throughout the Autumn Nations Cup.

Three weeks on, he expects his players to have learned the lessons of that one-sided contest, although he pointed out that it is far from ideal to have gone without a game since then.

“We’ll be keen to get back on the field and put some of the wrongs right from the Exeter game. We had the [international] boys back for four or five days before the Exeter game. Now what you want is a period of time working with them, but unfortunately we haven’t had that now, we’ve had 10 days away from them.

“So this week is an important week. We need to get back on page quite quickly and try and gel some of those things. Am I naive enough to think we’ll do all that in a week? No, probably not. It takes a little bit of time. Edinburgh are probably one game further down the road than us from that point of view, but they rested a couple of boys in that game [the Champions Cup win over Sale Sharks].”

Wilson hopes Richie Gray will be fit to play after a spell on the sidelines with concussion, although Gray’s second-row partner Leone Nakarawa is probably two weeks away from making his comeback after a knee injury.

“Richie is making really good progress and I’m hopeful,” Wilson said. “I won’t say for definite, because I know how these things could change, but he’s in the best place he’s been in for some time, so I’m hoping that he’ll be close, if not available for that game.

“Leone is more of an outside chance. He’s still taking a little bit of time to recover from that knee, in terms of strengthening it. I had a meeting with him on Wednesday, he’s getting there, he’s definitely making progress, but it’s slower than we hoped.

“Now he’s working hard, let me put it that way. He came back [from lockdown in Fiji] with a lot more to do than we thought would be the case. Our medical staff are working extremely hard with him, and we all want to see him on the pitch.”