RUARIDH Jackson might like to spend most of his waking hours dreaming up clever plays to prise open the tightest of defences, but the Glasgow fly-half owes his current run in the side more to solid defence and an ability to make something from mishaps.
The 24-year-old is determined to regain the Scotland No 10 jersey from Greig Laidlaw in 2013, but knows that he needs to become a more consistent performer for the Warriors to both keep Duncan Weir and Scott Wight at bay, and then begin to threaten his Edinburgh rival. Glasgow assistant coach Shade Munro revealed that it was Jackson’s attention to defensive chores more than anything else that had won him the selection, and as the fly-half prepares for a third start in a row – for only the second time this season – Jackson acknowledged that improving weaknesses was crucial to that first target, of retaining Glasgow’s No 10 jersey.
He said: “As a ten, you want to be in that rhythm that you get from having game time week-in, week-out, but with the level of competition in the squad, especially with the three tens all playing well, it is tough for the coaches to get that balance right.
“Defence has been one of my targets for development and I’ve been working closely with Matt [Taylor, Glasgow and Scotland defence coach] and feel it has been coming on. It is just a mindset. I have never really minded defence, but it is having the focus to make it a real attribute. I’ve been going in and making sure that though I am never going to physically dominate people with my size, I am going low and chopping people down.
“I think Jonny Wilkinson broke that mould [non-tackling fly halves] and with the modern game, everyone has to be a defender. I would prefer to concentrate on attack and all that, but I have enjoyed working on my defence, and making sure that I’m not disregarding my attack too much.”
As Jackson matures so he is finding extra support from a back line that seems to sprout new talents every month, the varying qualities of Stuart Hogg, Peter Murchie, Peter Horne, Sean Lamont and Sean Maitland relieving Jackson of his desire to be the linch-pin to every attack.
An Edinburgh player earlier on the learning curve is winger Dougie Fife, who is looking forward to his first taste of the 1872 Cup and the challenge of stopping DTH Van Der Merwe, after replacing the injured Lee Jones.
“I had four games last year and two so far this season [against Ospreys and Racing Metro], but for me this is the biggest, being a local boy from Boroughmuir and with all the cup rivalry. He [Van der Merwe] is a great finisher but a lot of the time he stays on his wing and people make space for him. It’s down to us to stop that because when he gets the ball he’s flying. So I’ve got to not give him space and keep my eye on him, but all of their backs are pretty dangerous.
“The first half last week obviously wasn’t great with missed tackles and stuff, but there were a lot more positives to take out of the second half and hopefully with a lot of the guys who got a flavour of that wanting to take it into this week we can start as we finished.”
Jackson added: “We know in the past when we have lost that first game we have had a kick up the backside in the week and come out all guns blazing and taken the game to them. That is what they will be aiming to do so we know what to expect, but we will be working on things that we can bring to the game and get us that win.”