Ali Price is convinced that his rivalry with team-mate George Horne is good for both of them, for Glasgow and for Scotland – and that it will go a long way to ensuring he does not succumb to the complacency which afflicted him two seasons ago.
After two appearances off the bench following his return from injury, Price is in line to start in the No 9 jersey in Saturday’s Pro14 game against Leinster. Yet no matter how well he may play, he faces a tough fight to displace Horne in the Warriors pecking order. And if Greig Laidlaw is still around come the Six Nations Championship, that could mean Price missing out on Scotland selection.
However, the 26-year-old would rather have that fierce competition than a guaranteed start. He remembers all too well how he allowed himself to get out of condition after the 2018 Six Nations – Glasgow coach Dave Rennie decided he was “overweight, a bit heavy and sluggish” – and puts that down to taking his position for granted.
“It’s good to be at a club like this,” Price said earlier this week. “I know that if I go out there and don’t perform I could be sitting on the bench for the next three weeks.
“A couple of years ago maybe I got a bit complacent with my position. It was like: ‘I’m fit, so I’ll be playing’. That was where I thought I was in the squad, but it was complacency. I came back from the Six Nations, under-performed and ended up losing my spot.
“Having a guy who is equally as capable as you and can put pressure on you can only be a good thing. The competition is strong between us. I think it’s good for both of us. It’s healthy. If we’re both playing well and we go into a Scotland squad, then it’s just a case of the best man wins.
“You hear some stories about back-rowers who really go at each other in training. There’s none of that with me and George – we just need to do our jobs. It’s not our decision who plays. You can’t be angry at someone if they get picked ahead of you.”
If Price does start at the weekend, it will be the first game he has begun since Scotland’s pre-World-Cup friendly against Georgia. In Japan itself he came off the bench against Ireland, broke a bone in his foot, subsequently had an operation and was sidelined for nearly two months. “I thought I had just gone over on it a bit awkwardly, like maybe the stud on my boot had just got stuck or something,” he explained. “But I had actually fractured the fifth metatarsal – I think it’s known as the Jones fracture to doctors.”
Speaking of Jones fractures, Price is sure that, contrary to rumour, the relationship between his good friend Huw Jones and Rennie has not broken down. And the scrum-half is convinced that, as assistant coach Petrus du Plessis said yesterday, the outside centre will soon be back in the starting line-up.
“I know Huw talks to Dave and Dave has his reasons for picking certain teams. Huw’s human: he’s obviously disappointed, because he wants to play,” said Price.
“It’s not like he’s just become a bad player overnight. What he’s done on the field, no one can take away from him – he’s got highlight-reel stuff.
“I think when he’s been given a chance this season he’s performed well. It’s down to him when he gets a run again to show what he can do.
“I think he was getting back to that at the start of the season. He’ll be looking to be busy this weekend and show what he can do.”