Blair Cowan owes career surge to ‘mad’ mum
After winning three caps on Scotland’s summer tour, the 28-year-old from Upper Hutt in New Zealand looks set to make his home debut against Argentina at BT Murrayfield on Saturday. And if he does, Joan Cowan will be there too, as she has been since his earliest days in the sport.
“This will be a huge, special moment, playing in front of my mum – if I get picked,” the London Irish forward said. “She arrived in the UK on Friday, she’s down with my brother in Kent at the moment, and if I’m in the team she’ll fly up. Otherwise I’ll probably go back to my club and she’ll try and catch me there.
“She never missed a game when I was growing up – she’s my biggest critic. She’s just mad, really. She does it all – Ironman [triathlon], half Ironman, the works. She actually played rugby, so it is in my blood, I’d say.
“She’s 100 per cent qualified to criticise me. The worst thing is, although I don’t admit it, when she says it, I know she’s right.
“And I’m lucky enough to have my partner Rachel, who took over when I came here. Even if I’ve played what I thought was my best game, Rachel will tell me that I’ve missed three breakdowns. So the women in my life are massive rugby critics and helped a lot.”
Although he believes himself capable of playing across the back row, Cowan is sure he is most suited to the No 7 jersey.
Not only does he like the freedom which an openside has compared to the more structured roles of the blindside and No 8, he thinks his affinity with the position began when, as a child, he developed an enthusiasm for getting into awkward predicaments.
“I’m born to it,” he said. “When I was a kid, my mum was always saying I was putting my head in stupid places and getting knocks. I think it’s developed from there.
“I’ve moved around a lot in my career, but when I talk to coaches who really know me, they say ‘You’re a 7, mate. You’ve got the mindset of a 7.’
“I’m comfortable at 7. I like the free rein of going out there and finding positions naturally, whereas at 6 or 8 you’re more setpiece orientated.
“I love being in the dirt of it all, and as I’ve played more at 7 I’d say that’s me naturally. So I’d say I’m a 7 that can play 6 and 8 quite comfortably.
“I love having my hands on the ball, and I also love the breakdown – I like getting in the mix and annoying people by slowing the ball down at the breakdown. I love the attacking side – the whole dog aspect is why I see myself as a 7.”
While taking nothing for granted, and officially not looking any further forward than this weekend, Cowan knows it would be extra-special to turn out against the All Blacks on Saturday week.
He admitted: “That’s at the back of my mind – it’s one step at a time for me – but it will be a huge, huge honour to play the All Blacks. It’s obviously got a bit more meaning for me, coming from New Zealand.
“I was in academy with Dane Coles and Victor Vito – I played a few rep games with him. I played club rugby with Cory Jane. It will be good to see them again – and beat them.”