SCOTT Lawson has waited a long time to savour again the experience of running out as Scotland’s hooker and line-up at the start of the game on the pitch.
The 31-year-old, originally from Biggar, has made bold moves from Glasgow to Sale, Gloucester and now plays with London Irish, in an effort to continually push himself into starting sides with the chance to prove himself worthy of international selection.
He will win his 36th Test cap tomorrow, but this will be only his ninth start in the Scotland jersey and just his second since the 2007 World Cup. While that underlines the dominance of the first-choice No 2, Ross Ford, it also says much about Lawson’s ability to maintain his place as Scotland’s best second-choice hooker through much of the past seven years, and a mental toughness to keep pushing since his debut against Romania back in 2005.
Now that he has a chance, he wants it to last and is determined this weekend to prove to head coach Andy Robinson that Ford is not as far ahead of the competition, with Glasgow’s Dougie Hall on the bench this week and also pushing, as the coach is wont to suggest.
“Dougie, Fordy and myself have gone at it for the past few years,” said Lawson, “but Fordy has had a stranglehold on the jersey, and rightly so because you don’t become captain for no reason. His performances and his form have deserved that, and it has been a great target for me to aspire to.
“We are different in the way we are and the way we played the game, so we’ve had different things to work on, but having been in the squad for a long time I have craved a start. I’m not just happy being involved; you want to go and play, and now I want to go and put a performance in.
“Being selected is only the start, but now I want to perform in a way that ask questions of Andy [Robinson] over what his selection has been and what it will be going forward.
“I know he’s looking at this game to help to develop the strength in depth in different areas, but after years of Fordy having the jersey this is an opportunity for me now and I have to do everything I can to make the most of it.”
Lawson lacks the bulk and power of Ford, at just 5ft 8in and 16 stones, and will be tested severely by a big Tongan front row, but he has terrific lineout throwing skills and is a mobile presence around the pitch. Robinson said this week that Ford’s “one-paced” play recently led to his being dropped, more than the lineout woes. Lawson sees an opportunity.
“It has been a long time coming this start, but I am not here to just enjoy being on the pitch with Scotland and look around. I’ve been there and done that. Of course, it’s a huge honour and I don’t for a second take it for granted – but I want to put down a real marker against Tonga.
“I’m not happy at just getting the start. I’ll only be happy if I can put in a big performance, and be proud of what I’ve produced, and then be able to go and ask Robbo some questions going into the Six Nations.”