• David Callam will make only his second start for Edinburgh since September, 2008 when his side face Connacht tonight. Picture: SNS
It would be understandable were the 27-year-old to feel as if he had lost two years of his life, having spent most of the 2008-9 season and half of this season in the turgid monotony of rehabilitation from potentially career-ending hip injuries. Modern treatment methods have ensured a return for the 6ft 4in back row forward, but as severe and tough as that has been, the reality of professional sport has revealed it to be only half of his challenge.
The next part is proving that he is still the player who won 11 caps for Scotland before injury struck. In fact, such is the new quality of back rows emerging at Edinburgh that he has to prove he is better than that. And he could be running out of time. Callam's contract is up at the end of this season, which could be as little as four games away, but no more than six, and no agreement has yet been reached on a new deal.
He is reluctant to discuss what kind of offer, if any, has yet been made to him, but appreciates that any talk is largely worthless until he can at least begin to make a claim to be part of Edinburgh's future. That begins tonight in the notoriously wet and wild west of Ireland, as he makes his first start since the derby match with Glasgow on Boxing Day and only second since September, 2008.
The pressure Edinburgh are under to beat the league's bottom-ranked, but very competitive side, is almost wrapped up in their No8.
"That's the way of pro sport," he says, with a shrug. "Being injured was incredibly frustrating, but most players go through it and you just have to get your head down and get on with it. But then to come back and find that you can't actually get a run, and get games to get the match fitness back and prove yourself again, is a whole new frustration.
"This time of the year is a nightmare really because of the disruption. I think this is only our second or third game in two months and when you're wanting to get out and prove yourself that's tough. And then you have guys like Roddy Grant, Alan MacDonald and others who have taken their chance and are playing well, and you can't expect them to be dropped to give you a chance. So, fortunately, I've been given an opportunity this week and I've got to grab it." The key perhaps to Callam's future in the Scottish pro game lies with his ability as a ball-carrier. Grant has been something of a revelation at No8, but the red-haired flanker believes his future lies with a seven on his back and so do most coaches. Injuries to Callam and Allister Hogg have led to coach Rob Moffat's experiment of a back row made up entirely of openside flankers, but it has had its pluses.
Edinburgh have back row riches with Ross Rennie, Scott Newlands, Hogg and Simon Cross also on the books alongside Grant, MacDonald and Callam, with the highly-rated Scotland U20 skipper Stuart McInally signed up for next season. Callam is, therefore, desperate to show now that a genuine 17-stone ball-carrier off the back of the scrum is still a potent weapon Edinburgh cannot do without. "Most players have different skills and I know what I can offer, be it in the lineout, defence, off the scrum and ball-carrying, and obviously I do think these are skills Edinburgh and every team need as part of their arsenal.
"Am I the man to bring that to Edinburgh? I believe so, but it's up to me to prove it. The good thing is I now feel really good. It has taken a while to feel comfortable in training after the injuries, but I'm now firing in training without problems, so I'm confident I can start to rediscover the form I had when I played for Scotland.
"You'd like time to do that in an ideal world, but I don't have it, so I need to make every minute I have count. But, to be fair, that is the attitude right through this Edinburgh squad – we know how tough Connacht are at home and we know we have to play well to finish in the top four and get into the play-offs. That's the important thing: Edinburgh winning. If I can play a part in that then we all win."
Connacht will be without their skipper John Muldoon, who failed to recover from the groin injury that ruled him out of last week's narrow loss at Leinster, and former England prop Robbie Morris and Niva Ta'auso also failed late fitness tests and so miss out.
Connacht (v Edinburgh at Galway Sportsground, 6pm): G Duffy (capt); B Tuohy, T Nathan, A Wynne, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Swift, B Upton, M McCarthy, J O'Connor, M McComish. Substitutes: A Flavin, R Loughney, D Nolan, A Browne, C O'Loughlin, M Nikora, E Griffin.
Edinburgh: J Thompson; M Robertson, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser; P Godman, M Blair (capt); A Jacobsen, A Kelly, G Cross, S MacLeod, J Hamilton, A MacDonald, R Grant, D Callam. Substitutes: R Ford, K Traynor, S Turnbull, S Newlands , G Laidlaw, D Blair, S Webster.