HE’s had a tough two years since being moved from Glasgow Warriors to Edinburgh in a failed attempt to provide one of the Scotland national team’s leading loose-head props regular game-time at club level, but Jamie Bhatti has now made it back to the place he calls home and it has been everything he hoped it would be so far.
Strained ankle ligaments meant he missed out on Warriors’ two pre-season matches, and the team came up just short when he did return to action off the bench in last Friday night’s United Rugby Championship [URC] season opener away to Ulster, but the 28-year-old is in no doubt that the club and his own career are now both moving in the right direction.
“It’s like I never left,” he smiles. “Same boys, same place, I have enjoyed it. It’s the same DNA – we want to play fast and the coaches who have come in have taken that to the next level, especially with the S&C stuff.
“Glasgow is home for me, so it would be easy for me to sit here and say I want to be here for the rest of my career, but, ultimately, that is not my decision,” he adds. “I can’t offer myself a contract, although I wish I could. I love Glasgow and I love being back and I will do all I can to be the best version of myself again. We will see what happens.”
As a late developer, Bhatti had spells working in an abattoir and as a nightclub door steward before being awarded a Scottish Rugby academy contract aligned to Glasgow Warriors in the summer of 2016 when he was 23 years old, giving him a real-life perspective which most of his sporting contemporaries could scarcely imagine.
This was perhaps a key driver behind his quick climb through the ranks to earn his first senior pro contract 12 months after signing that academy deal, and the first of his 18 Scotland caps to date barely six months after that in November 2017.
However, the emergence of Oli Kebble and signing of Aki Seiuli meant he found himself squeezed out at Edinburgh, and things didn’t improve much after he was shifted eastward to join Edinburgh during the summer of 2019, with Richard Cockerill providing just four starts during the next year and a half.
When he was released by the club last December, so that he could take up a short-term deal as injury cover with English Premiership side Bath until the end of the season, it was a blessed relief – and the catalyst to his career beginning to get back on track.
“It [the English Premiership] is a very attritional league, the set-piece and stuff, it’s completely different,” he explained. “Every game is like a derby. I played 10 times and I definitely developed my scrummaging working with the coaches down there.
“Playing against Harlequins and the top teams, it was good for me to get that experience and bring it back up here. A change of scenery as well is always good.”
No sooner had Bhatti’s Edinburgh departure been confirmed than news broke that he would be returning to Glasgow this summer, and having only recently turned 28 he knows that he is only just coming into his prime as a front-row forward.
“I just want to play as much rugby as I can this season,” he continues. “It has been a tough couple of years, with leaving for Edinburgh and things not really working out there. But I am happy being back here, I am comfortable here, and the more I play the more confident I will get as well.
“I am just looking forward to getting back to enjoying my rugby and having fun with it again. I loved my time at Bath as well, but I am really enjoying being back at Glasgow. I will crack on with this season and see where I end up.”
Warriors will look to bounce back from their opening weekend loss in Belfast when they host the Sharks – one of the four South African former Super Rugby franchises which have joined the URC this year – at Scotstoun on Saturday afternoon.
“They are renowned for having good forwards and big ball-carriers,” he says. “But that’s good for us, [because] we have a big pack, we have a good scrum, good line-out and good drive. We back ourselves against anyone.”
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors summer recruit Sebastian Cancelliere is one of eight members of the Argentina squad – six players and two staff – to be banned from any involvement in their team’s final match of the Rugby Championship against Australia on Saturday after breaking Covid rules.
The winger took part in an unauthorised sight-seeing trip to Byron Bay, crossing state lines from Queensland to New South Wales in the process. The group – which includes Pumas captain Pablo Matera – have been stranded in New South Wales since failing to produce the required documentation when trying to cross back across the state border on Wednesday night.
Cancelliere is due to join up with Warriors after the conclusion of the Rugby Championship. The 28-year-old has been capped 11 times by Argentina since his debut in 2017. His only appearance in this Rugby Championship was off the bench during the Pumas’ 32-12 defeat to South Africa in Port Elizabeth on 14th August.