DANNY WILSON is hoping that his happy knack of recruiting overseas players who make an immediate positive impact will continue tonight when Tongan winger Walter Fifita makes his Warriors bow off the bench against Ospreys at Scotstoun.

No 8 Jack Dempsey, centre Sione Tuipulotu and full-back Josh McKay have all hit the ground running since arriving at the club from the southern hemisphere this season, and while Fifita does not bring quite the same pedigree in terms of standard previously played, his 6ft 5ins and 18½ stone frame is a tantalising prospect.

Fifita arrived at the club in early October but a combination of injury, selection, international duty and Covid call-offs means he has yet to pull on the jersey, although Scottish rugby fans did get a hint of what he can offer as an attacking force when he knocked both Darcy Graham and Blair Kinghorn onto their backsides in a rare moment on the front foot for Tonga during their heavy defeat to Scotland at the start of the recent Autumn Test series.

“He’s very exciting,” agreed Wilson. “We saw in the Scotland game when he played for Tonga what he’s capable of.He’s had a niggly injury since he’s been with us which means he hasn’t played for quite a period of time, so he’s still getting used to Glasgow and our way of playing, but he’s someone who could make an impact at the tail end of this game.

"What we’ve seen from him is that X-Factor with the ball in hand. He’s very powerful whether in wide channels or coming infield as a carrier and yard-maker.

“He adds to the competition in the back three with Cole [Forbes], Seb [Cancelliere], Kyle Steyn and Josh McKay. We also have Rufus McLean who’s powerful but also extremely quick. So, we have slightly different players which allows us to add to our depth and gives us the ability to play slightly different styles depending on the opposition and the weather."

Born in New Zealand, Fifita qualifies for Tonga through heritage. After an undistinguished period playing club rugby in the Counties Manukau area of his homeland, he moved to Spain for the 2018-19 season and scored 13 tries in 16 matches for El Salvador, then returned to New Zealand to play for North Harbour, where he managed three appearances and one try as the team was relegated from thePremiership to the Championship Division at the end of the 2020 NPC campaign.

Wilson concedes that unlike Dempsey, Tuipulotu and McKay, who had all proved themselves at Super Rugby level – and international level in the case of Dempsey – Fifita is more of a potential-based signing.

“Walter’s background has been good at the levels he’s played at, but he maybe needs more exposure to us and the way that we play,” said the coach. “I think he’s going to have to work on the system we play both in attack and defence, which is a huge part of things in Europe, as well as back-field management in terms of covering spaces.

“The boys have really taken to him, he’s settled in nicely and he certainly has that thirst to want to be on the field and play.”

Wilson has made just two changes – both in the pack – to the side he sent out for the team’s last match. That was the excellent Champions Cup victory over Exeter Chiefs, with a Covid outbreak in the squad leading to both 1872 Cup matches during the festive period being postponed.

Club co-captain Ryan Wilson is back in the back-row after his Covid-enforced lay-off, while Kiran McDonald makes his first start of the season in the engine-room. They replace Dempsey and Richie Gray, who are both listed as unavailable, with no detail given.

Fraser Brown – the club’s other co-captain – has been named on the bench in his comeback match after injuring his knee against Zebre back in October.

“We still have a couple of issues that we’re getting through in terms of players isolating or coming out of isolation,” said Wilson. “But we’re in a way better place than we were. As you can see from the team selected there’s a fair few available and we wouldn’t have been in that state last week.”

Warriors are currently fifth in the United Rugby Championship table but could leap-frog ahead of both today’s opponents, Ospreys, who are in fourth place, and third place Ulster, if results go their way this weekend.

Ali Price retains captaincy of the side, despite the return of Wilson and Brown. “We have two club captains, Ryan and Fraser – that hasn’t changed – but Ali comes into that group,” said Wilson. “His leadership has been really impressive while that pair were out  and for this game we’ll keep that going.”

Glasgow Warriors (v Ospreys at Scotstoun Stadium, Saturday 5.15pm): J McKay; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson, C Forbes; R Thompson, A Price©; J Bhatti, G Turner, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, K McDonald, R Wilson, , R Darge, M Fagerson. Replacements: F Brown, O Kebble, E Pieretto, L Bean,, T Gordon, J Dobie, D Weir, W Fifita.

Tournament organisers EPCR has confirmed that the round three and four pool stage matches of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup are set to go ahead over the next two weekends as scheduled.

Seven fixtures between French and UK teams were postponed in round two after the government in Paris suddenly imposed tough new border controls in response to the surge in the Omicron variant of Covid last month, but an agreement has been reached for players, staff and match officials to travel between France and the UK on a “pursuit of economic activity” permit.

Glasgow Warriors are due to host La Rochelle in their final Champions Cup pool match 22nd January, while Edinburgh host CA Brive in the Challenge Cup the night before.