Grafter Gordon Reid thrust into the limelight

The World Cup warm-up in France was Gordon Reid's 12th cap. Picture: SNS

The World Cup warm-up in France was Gordon Reid's 12th cap. Picture: SNS

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WHEN the cameras pan down the line of Scottish players during Flower of Scotland this afternoon, be sure to look closely at Gordon Reid’s face. The man known as “Goon” will be churning inside and the evidence will be writ large on that expressive coupon. While others may be hiding their emotions, Reid will be an open book.

Of his 12 international appearances, nine have come off the bench. He has started just three, against the USA, Canada and Italy. Reid freely admits that, after missing out on the matchday squad altogether for the opening two games, he wondered if he would get any game time at all at this World Cup.

Be careful what you wish for. Reid has been whistled up by Vern Cotter for a zinger of a tie against the Springboks this afternoon. If South Africa lose they may exit the World Cup at the pool stage. If Scotland win they will almost certainly qualify for the knockout stage. Reid came here as third choice loosehead but if he can handle Jannie du Plessis and the Springboks scrum that looks several levels above his pay grade, the former Ayr man will become an overnight hero. No pressure then.

“They definitely pride themselves in the scrummage,” says Reid. “They’re big physical boys, they rate themselves in scrum and lineout drives. They’re not tougher than the rest, they’re bigger than other teams, big physical human beings but no different to the others, we just need to stand up and fight hard.”

Standing up and fighting hard is what Reid has been doing all his life. He does not look like a prop forward, with long legs that make getting low in the set scrum a problem, but if God loves a trier then the Almighty must have Reid on quick dial because he is the living embodiment of the much loved mantra that sport isn’t about winning, it’s about picking yourself off the canvas, dusting yourself down and having another go.

While others sailed through the academy system and on to the pro ranks, Reid did things the hard way, joining Ayr as a grunt and then working his way up; Scotland club international, Glasgow Warriors and now Scotland, until he finds himself in the World Cup limelight today. It isn’t necessarily the most talented who get to the top, but rather those that want it the most and Reid has a hunger to succeed.

“I’ve never been the best player but I’ve always stuck at it,” Reid concedes. “If someone’s better than me then it’s always work rate, just keep on going. I’m maybe not the best technical player but I’ll keep going, I won’t back off. It’s more mental strength than anything else.

“There will be times I’ll be against a guy who’ll get one over on me but there’s always the next scrum, the next breakdown, the next contact, so I’ll work my hardest to get better.”

It will be an emotionally charged match at St James’ Park. The Boks still have their backs to the wall and, if Cotter has rested a few sore bodies with one eye on the Samoa match, the Scotland pack especially has enough big athletic lumps to stand toe to toe with just about anyone in world rugby.

Reid is one who wears his heart on his sleeve and while he is aware that raw emotion can be a combustible component, if properly harnessed that fighting spirit can be the difference between winning and losing.

“Last week when I was in the stands listening to the anthems, the crowd were phenomenal,” he recalls. “It just gives me goosebumps. You just find this, I don’t know what it is, it’s a fire inside you. It just gives you a buzz and you want to go at it.

“On Saturday we’ll have 50,000 Scots cheering. Singing the anthem you get a buzz. You can hear it from the stands where you journalists sit but when you’re standing on the park and all the eyes are on you, you’re just buzzing and it can make a standard player, a guy who is not that good, awesome.”

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