MATT FAGERSON made it onto the pitch for the first time since breaking his arm back in early June when he played 30 minutes for Glasgow Warriors against the Emirates Lions on Saturday, then just four days later he was named in Scotland’s Autumn training squad.
Mind you, Nick Haining of Edinburgh – the only other recognised No8 in the 36-strong national group announced by Gregor Townsend on Wednesday – hasn’t played since injuring his ankle against Benetton during pre-season.
Looks like a lack of recent time in the saddle is not going to be as big a factor as would generally be the case for Fagerson as he pushes for selection for the national team’s opening match of the Autumn series against Tonga on 30th October.
And the 23-year-old is hoping that the work he was able to put in during recovery from his injury will stand him in good stead as he looks ahead to a busy six-week window, with two club games against Zebre away and Leinster at home followed by four international matches at Murrayfield against Tonga, Australia, South Africa and Japan looming over the horizon.
“It was frustrating because the boys have been having six-week holidays and I’ve been having an operation and a week in a sling, then straight back in for rehab, so I’ve been acquainted with Scotstoun very, very well in recent months,” said Fagerson.
“But it was really easy to knuckle down. I was here with a couple of other boys, and I would come in and get my stuff done and put a strong focus on my goals, to get back into good shape and rehab my arm.
“I managed to put the onus on myself and get a really good base for a lot of my S&C stuff: things like working on my lower body – running, footwork and fitness – because in terms of catching a ball, it’s only been in the last four weeks that I’ve been able to do that. So, it was probably a pretty good time to get injured.
“It’s been a long haul in the off season but I’m feeling good, and it was good to get 30 minutes under my belt on Saturday,” he added.
“It was probably one of the easier games to be eased back into. It was more like a unit session – just scrum and lineout – but it was really good to get back on the pitch.”
If anything, Fagerson perhaps faces a bigger challenge forcing his way into the Warriors team as opposed to the Scotland side given the form shown by those who have started the season in the club side’s back-row.
“The competition at the minute is as hot as I’ve seen it here at the club,” agreed the 23-year-old. “Jack Dempsey has been quality since coming in from Australia during the summer and provides a different sort of game-play to what we’re used to.
“Rory Darge has been a revelation since joining us from Edinburgh at the tail-end of last season. He takes a lot of the weight off the rest of the back-row in terms of his carries and his ability to just continue to go and go, while Tom Gordon got his first game the other week and he was arguably the man-of-the-match.
“And with Ryan Wilson leading from the front as well – he’s probably playing some of the best rugby of his career – I know I’m going to have my work cut out.”
Fagerson was, however, quick to stress that the battle for game-time is generating positive rather than negative energy within the squad.
“Competition breeds excellence,” he said. “It means pressure and makes sure you are not floating through games and expecting to start the next week. That’s how you create a winning culture in the team.
“Guys are always on the edge of their seat, and it is about having the ability to know you’ve got all that competition but not take it personally, so that you still help each other out. We’ve got a really good balance to that here.
“You can see that with some of the rugby we’ve produced. The scary thing is that the score-lines haven’t reflected how well we’ve attacked and played. We’ve left a lot of opportunities out there, but for a young team we are gelling really, really well. There have been a lot of good additions and the team is growing.”