IT IS obviously frustrating that I’m not able to take part in the start of the Six Nations because of injury, but I’ve still felt a real sense of excitement as the first round of games has come nearer.
It’s a chance for me to watch as a spectator – sit back, enjoy it and watch the boys go to work.
Over the past three months, since injuring my shoulder against Wales and then getting an operation on it, I’ve been in my own little world, just focusing on day-to day-things and not really trying to think too far ahead. When you’re injured you can get a bit bogged down in things if you think too far ahead and worry about what you might be missing out on.
Now, looking at the squad from the outside, I have the same feeling about it that I did when I was involved during the Autumn Nations Cup: I honestly believe we’re in a good place.
The strength in depth we have is incomparable now to four or five years ago. The amount of talent that is still coming through now is great to see – players like Cameron Redpath, for example. Every year we have new players popping up out of the woodwork and that is brilliant for Scotland.
There were frustrating points in the autumn. In the third-place play-off against Ireland, for example, we played really well in the first half, but in the second we couldn’t come away with anything decent.
Now it’s all about gelling. The squad have had a couple of weeks together in which to gel, and if we start well at the weekend I think you’ll see a Scotland team in full flight.
We do believe we can win this tournament. We’ve got all the talent in the world in this team. We just need to show it, starting this afternoon at Twickenham.
It’s a good time to get England first up. A lot of their players, such as the Saracens boys, have not played too much rugby. So this is a great opportunity for Scotland to get them – almost catch them cold.
The 2019 Six Nations was my first Championship, and of course it ended in that
38-38 draw at Twickenham. I remember being so nervous sat on the bench, then just wanting to get on. We started scoring all those points and I was just so keen to become involved. Then I did get the nod to get on and wanted to help the boys get the win.
It was such a bizarre game, it was bonkers. Such fun to be a part of and a once-in-a-lifetime match.
Twickenham is such a cool place to play. It will be weird without fans today, and it won’t be as big of an advantage to England.
I only played four or five games without the crowd before my injury, and we were still trying to get used to it. When we first started it was so bizarre, it almost felt like a training game. But speaking to the boys now, they are more used to it. A lot of them have said they find it a lot easier now that it’s fairly normal.
There’s a mixture of things that you have to get used to. For example, when you run out to a packed stadium your adrenalin is pumping and you don’t need anything to get you up for it. Although pulling on the navy-blue jersey is more than enough to get anyone up for it, even more so against England.
From the minute you walk off the bus you feel the buzz of the stadium. Whereas when there is no crowd you almost have to create your own energy. You will see teams now celebrating every little win they get on the pitch. It’s all about creating your own atmosphere. The boys on the bench will be screaming from the stands.
The silence is the thing that took a bit of getting used to. When you kick a penalty or score a try there’s not a big roar from the crowd. Especially when little momentum swings happen, the crowd can get behind you and help that a little more. Without that, the onus is on the team to get behind each other.
I think it will help a lot that Scotland are such a tight-knit team. That has to bode well for us.
ONE MORE THING
AS FOR me, I’m recovering well and hope to be back playing for Glasgow before too long. I’m leaving for Gloucester in the summer, but I still have six months of my contract here to run and I’ll be completely committed to the cause right up until the minute I leave.
All my mates are here, I live here, I’ve been on a complete roller coaster with this team. I’ve still got a lot of love for this team and a lot left to give. This time being injured has really hammered home how much I love my job, so I can’t wait to get back out there again.
Of course I’m hopeful that I will make my Warriors comeback in time to be involved in this year’s Six Nations, but I’m taking absolutely nothing for granted.
Finn Russell is world class as we know, Jaco van der Walt is in the squad on merit, and it is only a few months since Duncan Weir was last involved too. I fully expect I’ll have to prove myself all over again before getting another chance to represent Scotland.