A LOT has been made of the hope that Scotland can profit from the “Glasgow bounce” as the Scotstoun contingent infect the whole national squad with their Guinness Pro12 championship-winning confidence, but one Warrior has arrived in the camp slightly wounded.
Adam Ashe was the high- profile omission on that glorious night in Belfast when Munster were put to the sword and had to look on helplessly after he was not even named in coach Gregor Townsend’s squad a week after being involved in the semi-final win over Ulster at Scotstoun.
Every other country will be doing the same kind of thing so it’s about going that extra yardAdam Ashe
The move raised eyebrows as Ashe had enjoyed a stand-out breakthrough year after winning his first international cap when he was called away from the Macphail Scholarship in New Zealand to face South Africa in Port Elizabeth. The 21-year-old No 8/blindside flanker won four more caps last season and established himself as a key member of the pack in the Warriors’ charge to the Pro12 final.
However, Townsend enhanced his reputation for left-field selections by fielding Rob Harley at No 6 and Ryan Wilson at No 7, with starting captain Josh Strauss at No 8. The decisions paid off as Harley scored the first try of the evening and Wilson delivered an electric performance at openside.
“It was a tough time for me, obviously, playing in the semi-final and then missing out for the final,” reflected Ashe at the Scotland’s World Cup training camp in Font Romeu this week.
“Gregor spoke to me and gave his reasons why. I’ve just got to use it as a learning experience. At Glasgow now you’ve got to be at the top of your game every time you pull the shirt on.
“Gregor obviously went for a different mix for that particular game, having a seven on the bench [Chris Fusaro] and Ryan [Wilson] in at openside. You just have to roll with it, I suppose. Gregor spoke to me and said he felt my form had dipped slightly in the couple of previous games. It didn’t drop a lot but just two or three per cent was enough for him to make the decision on that occasion.
“A lot of people said to me it was a harsh decision in some ways but that’s how it goes. Some people are going to miss out and be disappointed.”
One of the principles that has been instilled at Glasgow and driven their remarkable rise in the past few years has been a strict philosophy that the needs of the collective outweigh those of the individual, and Ashe is fully steeped in that.
He said: “Yes, although disappointed I watched the game and saw that Gregor had got it right. You’ve got to put the team first in these situations. You want them to win and do well and they did. We all played our part in getting us there.”
Going straight back into the Scotland fold is the perfect way for the former Alva Academy pupil and product of Hillfoots and Stirling County RFCs to flush any lingering disappointment from his system.
“It’s certainly tough work,” said Ashe of the strength and conditioning and team bonding trip to the French Pyrenees. “It’s been enjoyable, we’ve had some tough times but, at the same time, there’s always been light at the end of the tunnel. For instance, we climbed a hill but then at the end of it we had a barbecue, which was good fun. It’s a lot easier when everyone around you is putting the work in as well.”
The young forward has as much trust in Scotland coach Vern Cotter’s judgement as Townsend’s and added: “Vern knows that every other country preparing for the World Cup will be doing the same kind of thing so it’s about going that extra yard to achieve gains in front of them. It’s all for a purpose and everyone wants it.”
Ashe is a keen skier so is used to altitude, but in slightly more refreshing temperatures and sliding down hills rather than hiking up them. Standing at 6ft 4in and weighing 16-and-a-half stones, he revealed that the thin air was more of a challenge for the bigger units in the squad.
“The bigger guys always find it harder whatever we do, to be honest,” he said. “The altitude doesn’t help. When we walked up that hill, the bigger guys were towards the back. I felt like after two or three days we all adapted to it. But it’s just that little bit harder to catch your breath.”
His own season may have finished on a slightly sour note but Ashe is more than entitled to be part of the “Glasgow bounce” and he does feel that club success can be translated into improved performances by Scotland.
He added: “For us to win the Pro12 and Edinburgh to get to that European final is fantastic. It does a lot for the country, gives everyone confidence and tells us that we’re up there at club level so why can’t we be up there at national level? Hopefully we can use it going into this campaign.”