SCOTLAND winger Dougie Fife is determined to make the most of his second chance – and push on and earn a place in Scotland’s Rugby World Cup squad.
The 24-year-old played in three Six Nations matches back in February and March and seemed certain to be picked in head coach Vern Cotter’s extended squad which was named in early June ahead of the showpiece event.
However, Cotter decided to go with uncapped wingers Damien Hoyland and Rory Hughes along with more experienced wide men Tommy Seymour, Sean Maitland, Tim Visser and Sean Lamont.
That left Fife “gutted”, but an injury to centre Duncan Taylor saw him called-up late last month and, since then, he has been working hard to make an impression.
“When the initial squad was named Vern told me I had just missed the cut, but to keep fit and work hard with Edinburgh because there was a long way to go until the tournament with four warm-up games to come and anything could happen,” he explained.
“I was obviously gutted when I got the call though as the World Cup is a massive thing.
“Now I have a second chance I have to take it with both hands and I have worked on the things that the coaches asked me to.
“Not being picked in the first place has given me a bit more hunger and I have to make the most of it. I also knew what I had to work on and improve.
“I spoke to the coaches and they told me why I had not made the initial cut – I have something to aim for. We have three weeks until the warm-up games and I have to take advantage of them and really push on.
“Scotland play a very different way from Edinburgh. Previously it was hard to come into the squad and play the way the coaches wanted. Now with a period of time together I feel more comfortable as we get into that structure and the way the coaching team want to play.”
Since he made the breakthrough with Edinburgh back in 2012/13 – having come through the ranks at Boroughmuir and Currie – Fife has been a consistent performer in the Pro12.
Many doubted whether he had the physique or game awareness to make the step up to international level, but he made a competent debut against Wales in the Six Nations of 2014.
Ligament damage to his hand soon after brought a premature end to his season and he missed the first half of the summer tour that year – the USA and Canada matches – but he was back in time to play a part against Argentina and South Africa. In this year’s Six Nations he came off the bench against France and scored his first try at international level, but angered Cotter for conceding a petulant penalty for throwing the ball away. He did return to the squad to play against England and Ireland while throughout the whole season he scored seven tries for Edinburgh.
After missing out on the original extended World Cup party, Fife was in Spain having a few days off with some of his Edinburgh team-mates before he was brought back into the fold.
“I got back from Spain on the Friday, was phoned on Saturday and by the Monday was in camp with the Scotland squad – it all happened pretty fast,” Fife said.
“I missed the French trip and the rest of the players had a week off so I was in at BT Murrayfield at that time catching up, but now I feel part of the group.
“The mood in the camp has been good. To begin with it was a lot of weights and conditioning and now rugby is coming to the fore. I am sure we will look closer at things when the Ireland game [the first warm-up match on 15 August] approaches, but we have to stay positive – everybody pushes each other so it is a good environment to be in.
“The first three warm-up games will be a big factor before they choose the squad with the France game [on 5 September] coming days after the final squad is named.
“I feel in a good place to go to the World Cup and help the team if selected.
“Last year I learned a lot rugby wise, with the ups and downs of the national squad and played in Europe.
“When I think back to four years ago when I was watching the World Cup in New Zealand on TV, I could not have believed that I would have had a chance to be involved the next time around. All the way through my amateur club career and then into the pro set-up I have always just tried to work hard – and the same goes for this summer.”