For many rugby players, the summer break is in full flow, but Scot Alex Grove already has his mind firmly set on playing in the Aviva Premiership once again with Worcester Warriors in 2015-16.
The 27-year-old centre – who earned three Scotland caps in 2009 against Fiji, Australia and Argentina – has been with the Sixways outfit for the majority of his career.
I love playing for Worcester and I guess you could say I have grown up hereAlex Grove
In the season just finished, he was in and out of the first team as the coaching staff took a look at a number of young players, but he was back in the starting XV for the big games at the end of the campaign.
That included the amazing two legs of the Greene King IPA English Championship play-off final against Bristol.
The Warriors, of course, won the first leg 29-28 away from home and then drew the second leg 30-30 after being 30-16 down.
It took a late Chris Pennell try and then Ryan Lamb conversion to grab the second leg draw and a 59-58 aggregate win and now, nearly two weeks on from that match, Grove has just about recovered from the rollercoaster of emotions.
“It was just a brilliant match to be involved in, as was the first leg, and it was so nip and tuck either team could have gone up,” Grove, who had a loan spell at Edinburgh five years ago, stated.
“With a few minutes to go in the second leg, I really thought our chance had gone because Bristol had edged ahead and were defending well. However, we never gave up and the scenes when the final whistle went were amazing.
“It was all a bit of a blur at first as everyone was just hugging and trying to take in what had happened, whilst we felt pretty sorry for the Bristol guys who had played their part in a great contest.
“We may not have got back to the Premiership as smoothly as we would have liked, but the key is that we are there now for next season and I think that we are much better prepared to go into the division and really give things a good go this time.”
In professional sport these days, especially top-level rugby, squads seem to change on an almost annual basis and sometimes you think it would be helpful if clubs had a revolving door on the way into and out of their training facilities. It says something for Grove’s talents then that, while others have come and gone from the Warriors in recent seasons, he has been there nearly a decade since he joined the academy and has played almost 150 matches for the first team.
“I love playing for Worcester Warriors and I guess you could say I have really grown up here,” Grove stated.
“It can be quite strange sometimes when you sit in the canteen at lunchtime and start to tell a story from just a few years ago, but then you realise that none of the guys who were around at the time are still here.
“That is just the way sport works, everything moves on, but I have been glad with the loyalty that the Warriors have shown me.
“I’m as enthusiastic now a I was when I was a teenager and I still have plenty good years ahead of me.
“I certainly feel like I can do a job in the top flight when asked after the summer.
“The good thing about the season just gone is that the coaches at Worcester used the Championship to expose a lot of up-and-coming young players to senior rugby and it means that, next season, when they are brought into the team they will be ready for that level of physicality and such like.”
Grove mentions the coaching staff and, of course, there is a real tartan flavour at the Warriors, with former Scotland cap Carl Hogg being the head coach and Simon Cross, the former Edinburgh Rugby captain and Edinburgh Accies coach, being the defence coach.
Grove said: “Carl and Simon are both great guys to work with and I think this season Simon has really grown into the job and the guys really buy into what he says and enjoy following his lead.
“Obviously, defence will be key in the Premiership and, knowing how thorough Simon is, he will probably already be masterminding defensive drills for when we return for pre-season.”
Before he can think about pre-season training, Grove has one important task to complete – this coming weekend he is getting married.
A list of jobs to do before the big day have kept him busy since the play-offs finished, but Grove is not complaining and this Scottish talent has a real spring in his step once again.