When Ruaridh Jackson suffered a long-term knee injury while playing for Wasps nine months ago, he thought his hopes of appearing in a second World Cup may have disappeared – but on Monday he will meet up with Vern Cotter’s extended squad with the dream still very much alive.
Jackson, now 27, came through the ranks at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, Cartha Queen’s Park and Glasgow Hawks and then made his mark with Glasgow Warriors.
In 2010 he made his Scotland debut off the bench against New Zealand and then the stand-off went on to play in three matches in the Rugby World Cup the following year. He started the games against Romania, Argentina and England and, over the next three months, he will be doing all he can to make sure he is included in the 31-man party that heads south for Scotland’s Pool B opener against Japan in Gloucester on 23 September.
“I had fewer than ten caps under my belt when I was selected for the World Cup four years ago and it was so exciting to be heading off to New Zealand to play,” Jackson recounts.
“It was a frustrating tournament for us all because we know that we did not play to our potential [Scotland were eliminated in the group stage], but I think everyone who was in that squad learned a lot from it and hopefully if those of us who are still around are involved again in a few months’ time our experience will help when the big event comes around.”
As well as Jackson, of the current 46-man training squad prop Al Dickinson, hooker Ross Ford, second-row Jim Hamilton, back-rows John Barclay and Al Strokosch, scrum-half Chris Cusiter, centre Richie Vernon and centre/winger Sean Lamont were all in the Scotland squad four years ago.
It was gutting when the injury occurred but I quickly started to set small goalsRuaridh Jackson
“I think the current squad seems to have a good mix of youth and experience,” Jackson added.
“Obviously, I have not been involved with the national team since last year’s summer tour, but Vern and the other coaches have been great at keeping in touch and it will be good to get amongst the boys again.”
After he moved to Wasps last summer from the Warriors things started off really well for Jackson and he played his part in the pre-season matches and then the league opener against Saracens at Twickenham.
Then, the following week against Northampton Saints at Adams Park in his home debut, he was injured.
He had come off the bench to replace Andy Goode and everything was going well until, while his side were defending, he tried to quickly change direction and felt his knee give way.
He had suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear and he then started the long road to recovery. Jackson said: “It was obviously gutting at the time when the injury occurred, but I quickly got my head around what had happened and started to set myself small goals along the way.
“The two main goals I have always had in my head since mid-September have been trying to get back on the pitch for Wasps and then getting back in the Scotland squad,” added Jackson, who has 25 Scotland caps and is competing with Finn Russell and Duncan Weir for the stand-off spot.
“It also gave me a boost that director of rugby Dai Young gave me a new contract at Wasps because, originally, I was only on a one-year deal, but to have my future resolved has helped me. And, with the club having moved to Coventry and with big plans for the coming years, I am really happy to be at Wasps and want to help the club challenge for trophies.”
Despite being back in full training since April with Wasps, Jackson could not force his way into their matchday squad for any of the last few Aviva Premiership encounters.
However, he is determined to force his way into the Scotland set-up.
“With the World Cup being in England and Wales in a few months, obviously a lot of the guys at Wasps have been talking about it and hoping to be included in their country’s squad.
“I haven’t talked about it too much because I have been busy with my rehab, but I am just like every other rugby player so, of course, I want to be involved for Scotland.
“Hopefully I can play my part in the warm-up matches in August and September and go from there.”