DCSIMG

Rugby: Scotland’s reserve hooker just glad to serve

Scott Lawson

Scott Lawson

  • by BILL LOTHIAN
 

They also serve who only stand and wait . . . or so the saying goes.

However, after gaining 23 of his 32 Scotland rugby caps from off the bench and to be closing in on Nathan Hines’ ‘record’ for a forward of 26 sub appearances, stand-by hooker Scott Lawson is as upbeat and committed to the cause as when he burst on to the scene with a try-scoring debut in Romania seven years ago.

In an era of “impact” and “fresh legs”, pocket battleship Lawson continues to pay his way handsomely going into Saturday’s latest round of the RBS Six Nations Championship against Ireland in Dublin, even if it is a mixed blessing that by the end of this season, which concludes with a three-match Test tour of Australia and the South Seas, he could overtake Hines having already seen off fellow capped super-subs Dougie Hall (20), Stuart Grimes (19), Gavin Kerr (18) and George Graham (17).

In Lawson’s case, the situation is all part and parcel of understudying the current Scotland captain, Ross Ford, and one that he is rightly philosophical about.

“I’m one of only two people in my position of hooker doing it for my country and that is something I have to enjoy. There’s always a bit of frustration at not getting on the pitch for a start but everyone has a role to play within the squad,” said the 30-year-old. “I just concentrate on my game and I’ve had conversations with (coach) Andy Robinson. It is about me playing as well as I can and over the past two seasons I have been really happy with my game. I can’t control how Fordy plays and for me he has been outstanding.

“All I can do is play well at club level and, when I do get on for Scotland, take any chances.

“I am playing most weeks at Gloucester, a very, very good club. Fordy has the jersey – I’ve had it for a number of Tests (nine) – and my game time has not necessarily reflected how well I’ve been playing.

“It was unfortunate that I pulled a calf muscle just before I was due to start against Georgia in this season’s World Cup but I’ve been to a couple of these tournaments and been involved in the last four or five Six Nations. Always I’m champing to get on the pitch but I’ve got to be realistic as well. Ross is captain and I’ve got to keep my own game up to speed whether in training or playing at club level.”

Having missed out on the academy systems when coming through the club ranks with Biggar and Melrose on the way to a professional career, Lawson is something of an inspiration for late developers, a role he is happy taking on while aware that his big break came when voted the David McGavin Trophy as Scotland’s best under-21 player a decade ago.

“Getting that award with the under-21s was my real start. There are different ways to come through to the international team and I just missed out on the academy side of things probably because my size when I was a bit younger was going against me.

“Hopefully my experiences since will encourage others that there are different routes.

“For example Lee Jones was, a year or so ago, playing club rugby. Lee took advantage of the clubs’ international team to press his case and now he is starring for Scotland. Players have got to be pushed through any way possible.”

Having spent four years with Gloucester he is moving to London Irish in a development that has wider implications for rugby. When the switch was announced Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath said the decision to let Lawson go was “for business reasons”.

But Lawson is undeterred, adding: “Gloucester were honest and up front and made that decision clear.

“I get on with it, move on and having signed for London Irish I couldn’t be more delighted.

“It is the way it is going in rugby and I’ve found another good club.

“Wherever I have been professionally Glasgow, Sale or Gloucester, I’ve learned and come out a far better player than when I went in. Just about ever facet of my game is better.

“You have to improve or you don’t succeed and I am ready to show it for Scotland at every opportunity.”

That next chance comes in Dublin and looking ahead this son of a Lanarkshire sheep farmer said: “There are a lot of positives and adding that extra one or two per cent to our execution will give us victories, I’m sure. The first thirty minutes against France and in patches of the Welsh game we played some really, really good stuff. It is about turning these small margins into victories.

“The French game got a monkey off our backs in terms of try-scoring and I had been getting some stick from the English guys at Gloucester for Scotland not scoring tries.

“Next it will be good to go back down south with a win and it has been encouraging that the way we have been playing has been recognised by neutrals.

“We don’t want to say it but we have been the better team for a lot of games but just not able to get over the line.

“Everyone is looking for this magical formula and you can’t just keep doing the same thing but statistics back up the fact we’ve been performing.

“There’s nothing worse than losing a game when you have not performed, not given it your all, but in the first three games the performance has been right up there.

“You put so much in emotionally and physically you are drained after any game but the circumstances we have found ourselves in just makes you want to get to that next game even more.”

• Scott Lawson was speaking on behalf of Guinness.

To win the chance to represent your country at the 2012 Guinness Rugby Challenge, visit www.facebook.com/Guinnessgb. Guinness is an Official Partner of the Scottish Rugby Union.

 

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