In just a few weeks’ time, at the end of the 2022/23 season, Ryan Wilson will say goodbye to Glasgow Warriors after 13 years at the club. Wilson leaves the place he has called home since he was just 20 years old, to embark on a new chapter of his life for the first time in over a decade. He will, however, be hoping there is one last triumph in store for him after seasons of countless highs and lows at Scotstoun. With a European Challenge Cup semi-final and a URC play-off quarter-final still to come, could the perfect send-off for one of Glasgow’s most iconic players be on the cards?
Ryan Wilson: The loyal Glasgow Warriors player
"Once a warrior, always a warrior." 🗣️
⚔️ @JLyall93 speaks to an emotional Ryan Wilson as he looks back on his career as a Glasgow Warriors player
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) April 14, 2023
Through thick and thin
Ryan Wilson made his Glasgow Warriors debut in September 2010, beating Leinster at Firhill Stadium in the Magners Celtic League. Despite the strong start to the season, Sean Lineen’s side went on to finish 11th out of the 12 teams that took part, having won just six games. Not the ideal start to Wilson’s professional rugby career by any stretch but his first season would end up being the worst of his time in Scotland’s biggest city.
The 2010-11 season was the final edition of the Celtic League before it was reformed into Pro12 – an era of domestic rugby that Warriors fans look back on fondly. Ryan Wilson was a key part of Glasgow’s rise to the top in the years that followed. Year after year they built, finishing fourth, third, and second in consecutive seasons before finally beating Munster 31-13 in the final at Kingspan Stadium to be crowned 2015 Pro12 champions. Wilson played the full 80 minutes of that historic win in Belfast.
Glasgow’s success in their league campaigns has been steady ever since, finishing sixth or above in every season apart from 2021-22. It is this season, Ryan Wilson’s last, however, that has fans licking their lips. They have one game left to play in the URC, against Connacht, but have already secured a home quarter-final for the playoffs. The competition is packed with world-class teams from around the globe but this could be as good a year as any to see them reach the final for just the fourth time.
The European stage, on the other hand, is where Ryan Wilson may just find his fairytale ending. Glasgow is into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup and plays Welsh outfit Scarlets, a team they beat just one week ago. This may be the first time the Warriors are playing in Europe’s second-best trophy competition since 2006-07, having been involved in the champions cup for the last 15 years, but that means they have a genuine chance of claiming some silverware. Now firing under Franco Smith, they are in good stead to bring a first-ever European Cup to Scotstoun to further reinforce the 33-year-old’s legacy at the club.
Ryan Wilson is a Glasgow Warriors double centurion. Something that only Rob Harley, with who he made his debut, has also ever achieved for the club. The back-row forward has played 221 games so far, making 178 starts and scoring 10 tries. Wilson has dedicated his entire career, and his life, to the Warriors and during that time has helped mould some of the very best players that the country has ever seen. His influence, both on and off the pitch, is something that has given him such a pivotal role in the setup that the Glasgow team has.
In total, 169 players have represented Glasgow in the 13 years since he pulled on the very same jersey for the first time. That means that 48% of the entire appearance list, since the #1 professional cap in 1996, has in some way been influenced by Ryan Wilson. He was named captain ahead of the 2017-18 season and was part of the leadership committee until 2022 when he handed responsibility over to current skipper Kyle Steyn.
Some of Scotland’s top players such as Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Scott Cummings, and Richie Gray have all been captained by Wilson, with many others having had his support in the seven years in which he earnt 50 caps playing for his country. Young, up-and-coming players, past and present, have often commented that his presence in the dressing room is prominent and his tiresome work rate to help others develop is why so many have found success.
Ryan Wilson may be leaving at the end of the season but the impact he has had on those around him will be evident for years to come. While he may have only featured in a handful of games this season, being able to compete on two fronts at the very top of the game takes relentless effort from the whole squad.
Special words from Ryan Wilson last night 👏 pic.twitter.com/NYpHOrhbLI
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) April 15, 2023
Wilson’s hands-on approach with the team is a big piece in the puzzle of Glasgow’s potential triumph this season. He is the second-highest-capped player in the club’s history and has devoted everything he has to Glasgow, within and out with rugby. The Warriors have been in fine form this season and will do all they make Ryan Wilson’s last dance in black and blue a memorable one.
Photo Credit: Glasgow Warriors Facebook Page on April 14, 2023.