UNTIL hooker Stuart McInally’s departure from the squad at the start of this week, Scotland’s final build-up to the World Cup has been mercifully devoid of serious injuries.
Four bruising matches have been negotiated, with prop Ryan Grant’s ankle injury in the first summer Test against Ireland in Dublin, the most serious scare. But the Glasgow loosehead reported himself fighting fit ahead of the squad’s departure to their Gloucester base yesterday morning.
“You know your own body and I’m fine now,” said the 29-year-old. “When it first happened it was frightening, a lot of things go through your head and you hope for the best. You try to convince yourself that you are alright even when you know something’s wrong. It’s a credit to the medical team who have been great with me over these last three weeks.
“I’ve barely had a moment to myself but they gave got me back fit to start the World Cup and I’m nothing but grateful for that.
“When I watched the video of the incident, it looked a lot worse than it actually was. Fortunately the staff in Dublin sent me for a scan straight away, so we knew right off the bat that there was no fracture.
“Then we had to wait for the MRI results when I arrived back in Scotland but once we received the results the staff here were more than confident they could get me back fit in time.”
Grant confessed that he did initially fear that his World Cup dream was over.
“When it first happened I thought I was done, I thought I had done something really bad,” he recalled.
“When you suffer that type of injury you get a buzzing feeling in your ankle, that goes away after a while and then you think you can stand up. So, by the time the stretcher came over, I said to the doctor that I was capable of walking off the pitch.
“The first 48 hours were pretty agonising. The ankle was badly swollen and I just hoped for the best. I was thinking the worst but [SRU doctor] James [Robson] and his team were very positive, I had the scan quickly, so there wasn’t too long a waiting period.
“After the first couple of minutes when the injury happened, I had a moment to collect my thoughts. It wasn’t as sore as I first thought, but it was painful though.”
The 23-times capped forward then surprised the coaching staff with the speed of his recovery.
“There was a plan to be integrated into sessions and the plan for last week was to do some three-on-three stuff,” he said.
“Sometimes training doesn’t always go to plan and we went on to five v fives and eight v eights. I jumped into that and it was fine.
“I was able to do all the aerobic stuff and, when I wasn’t with the team, I was with the physio Steve Mutch. He kept my fitness up, some of his sessions were harder than the fitness coaches.”
The Scotland scrum has looked strong in the warm-up games, with the all-Edinburgh trio of Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and Willem Nel looking to have cemented their places.
However, Grant’s fellow loosehead Dickinson took a head knock in Paris and is undergoing concussion protocols. He is expected to be fine but, with four games in 17 days, Grant is sure to be heavily involved either from the start or coming off the bench.
“I would have liked to have played more games, so it’s not ideal, but I’m just delighted to be going as I believe I’ve got off lightly with the ankle injury.
“I’m grateful to be ready for the start of the World Cup and the first game will be tough for everyone. But I’m ready to face Japan.
“It’s a long time to wait for it to all start, but there is so much to do before the first game. After spending some final time with our families, we are down to Gloucester and we’ll have a big couple of days down there before the weekend.
“Before we know it, we’ll be facing Japan. There is a sense of waiting around, but it will all come around soon enough.”
The time on the sidelines gave Grant a chance to look at footage of the Japanese and he has been impressed with what he has seen.
“As a team, we will look at them a lot more closely but we have already studied some aspects of their game since our France game,” he explained.
“Due to the fact I’ve been injured it’s given me an opportunity to have a look at them and they are a good team. They are getting a lot better and they have the capability of surprising people. It’s going to be the case in every World Cup game that every team will throw the kitchen sink at you.”