Rugby: Bruce aims for almighty effort in Scotland bid

BRUCE DOUGLAS has emerged as Scotland A's spy in the camp as they prepare to launch a defence of the European Nations rugby cup against Georgia in Romania on Friday.

The 30-year-old ex-Heriot's prop has been turning out for the past two seasons at French side Montpellier where colleagues include a couple of Georgians.

He said: "Giorgi Chzhaize (flanker) and Mamuka Gorgodze (lock) were team-mates and from them I have learned that Georgia relish the physical battle.

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"They are going to challenge us up front and we'll have to be ready for that."

The greater the physicality, the more it should assist Douglas in his quest to return to the full national squad after a run of 43 matches ended after the 2006 tour of South Africa.

A loss of form coincided with the death of his father and while acknowledging "personal circumstances", Douglas makes it clear there were sundry factors involved, including the fact that the Borders side he had represented since 2002 were operating from hand-to-mouth prior to closure.

"Club rugby was going really badly and was a complete sideshow," he said.

"I struggled to keep my place and when I moved to Llanelli I got off on the wrong foot. Really, it took a couple of seasons at Montpellier for me to get back on track, helped by the fact that the coaches seemed content to let us do our own conditioning so long as we produced the goods at the weekend.

"I felt I should have been involved with the A squad before now, at least for training, but I'm not bitter. I understand guys who were picked had been playing well.

"France has been good for me, though. The French crowds love to watch scrums and when somebody pops out of the front row or there is a drive that tramples the opposition a roar always goes up.

"Similarly, if your scrum is on the receiving end you're soon told by the fans.

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"Also, in France there is pressure from the owner of the club which brings the best out of you.

"I didn't get the chance to see a lot of Magners League games in France, although what I did see on the internet was good.

"But, when I was at Borders, any chance of winning a trophy had gone by Christmas and often we were facing opposition second teams.

"Being left to my own devices to prepare in France at that stage of my career helped – and hopefully I have plenty of time to persuade (coach) Andy Robinson I can still be involved with the full Scotland squad again"

Next season, Douglas will link up with Worcester and he admits relegation from the English premiership was not ideal.

"Hopefully Warriors can quickly bounce back and I'll have a chance to get involved again with Scotland. It was time to come back from France and I've bought a house in Worcester."

Since last turning out for Scotland A in 2007, Douglas has seen a changing of the guard.

"There has been such a turn-over I am still trying to remember all my colleagues' names and when Nikki Walker dropped out and Scott Macleod moved up to the senior squad my last links so far as previous playing colleagues went with them.

"However, I am sure I can draw on my previous experience."

What experience he can offer.

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As a youngster, Douglas left Heriot's and, turning down an offer from Edinburgh, opted to join Harlequins where he made a Heineken European Cup debut in the company of Lions front rowers Keith Wood and Jason Leonard against Castres Olympique.

"Playing with Jason and Keith was fantastic and, although I had a chance to join Edinburgh, joining Quins was right for me at that time," he said.

"I'd gone to school and university in Edinburgh and wanted to sample life elsewhere.

"If I'd gone away to university it might have been different and I'd have been content to settle down in Edinburgh and maybe play all my career at one club like some players do.

"However, I have no regrets – but I do have a real desire to help Scotland A and try to get back to the top level again."