AFTER a slow start, Glasgow Warriors head coach Danny Wilson has picked up a fair head of steam in the recruitment market during recent weeks, with his latest new signing being unveiled as Australian-born, Scots-qualified centre Sione Tuipulotu from Japanese Top League side Yamaha Jubilo. 

A powerfully built and pacey centre, Tuipulotu is a former Australia schoolboys cap and played in three consecutive Junior World Cups for the Wallabies Under-20s side, including in England in 2016 when he scored two tries against a Scotland side featuring future Warriors team-mates Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings and Robbie Nairn. 

The 24-year-old – who qualifies for Scotland through his Glaswegian grandmother – made his Super Rugby debut with Melbourne Rebels when still only 19 in March 2016, but then struggled to nail down a regular spot in in the match-day squad with only 11 appearances over the next four years, before heading to Japan last year for his second stint with Yamaha Jubilo.  

“I’m really excited for the next chapter in my rugby journey," said Tuipulotu. “I’ve been talking to Danny for quite some time and for this to come to fruition is pretty exciting.

“I’ve been enjoying my rugby in Japan and I’m looking to give it my all this season before coming to Glasgow. I think my play style will suit the Warriors' style. I’m a bit of a rugby nerd and I’ve watched a lot of their games - I’ve heard a lot about the speed of the Scotstoun pitch and I’m looking forward to playing that attacking, fast style of rugby.

“I’m absolutely fizzing to get over to Scotland, earn the boys respect and get the season underway.” 

Tuipulotu is the eighth new face to be added to the squad roster since the turn of the year, following in the footsteps of Kiwi full-backs Cole Forbes and Josh McKay, Australian back-row Jack Dempsey, English second-row Lewis Bean, Scottish props Simon Berghan and Jamie Bhatti, and Scottish stand-off Duncan Weir. 

With first team regulars Scott Cummings, Sam Johnson, George Horne, Jamie Dobie, Sean Kennedy and Thomas Gordon all having agreed contract extensions in the last few months, and emerging youngsters Rufus McLean, Ross Thompson and Ollie Smith also agreeing deals which will give them the opportunity to push hard for more regular game time during the 2021-22 campaign, the outlook at Scotstoun looks a lot more positive in terms of personnel than it was at the tail-end of last year.  

While Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill said recently that he has no money left to spend on building his squad for next season, Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson insisted last week that pro team recruitment is not finished yet, so Warriors fans can look forward to some more signings during the next few weeks.  

Although the hope has to be that the short-term advantage of bringing in ready-made players is balanced with continuing to promote academy talent, with back-five forward Gregor Brown and centre Robbie McCallum the most obvious candidates to follow McLean, Thompson and Smith into the senior set-up. 

Of course, it is not all one-way traffic, and Warriors will lose a couple of their big players next season, most notably Adam Hastings (Gloucester) and Huw Jones (reportedly Bayonne), but the overall impression is that Warriors will have much more strength in depth across the park than they have had this year. The departure to Ulster of Leone Nakarawa in his current condition is no great loss. 

It has been a tough first season in charge of the club for Wilson, with Covid limiting his opportunities to refresh the squad or make his own imprint during pre-season. Injuries have also taken their toll with important players such as Kyle Steyn, Niko Matawalu, Tommy Seymour, Sam Johnson, Richie Gray, Kiran McDonald, George and Peter Horne, Fraser Brown, Chris Fusaro and Alex Allan missing all or significant chunks of the campaign.  

The extended Autumn Test window and strict bubble restrictions in the Scotland camp has also created problems, while postponements due to Covid and bad weather has made it almost impossible to build any sort of momentum.  

The team has not made it into the last 16 of the Champions Cup this season after suffering a painful 42-0 drubbing away to Exeter Chiefs in their opening match of the pool stage, and they are not going to qualify for next year’s tournament after managing only three wins form 12 matches played so far in the PRO14 to leave them flailing in fifth place (out of six) in Conference B. 

However, there was cause for encouragement in how Wilson’s team performed in adversity against Leinster on Sunday night, and he deserves a fair crack at the whip with his own squad and a proper build-up to the 2021-22 campaign before we rush to judgement. 

“Sione is an exciting talent,” said the coach. “He’s Scottish-qualified, and a really physical and powerful ball carrier who can play both centre and wing. His skill-set and play style compliments the way we want to play, and we’re look forward to welcoming him to Scotstoun in summer.”