MATT Scott provided a welcome boost for Scotland yesterday by reporting that he hopes to be back available for selection come the Rugby World Cup warm-up matches which start a month today.
The 24-year-old Edinburgh centre has not played since the last game of the Six Nations against Ireland after undergoing a third shoulder operation, the most recent of which was the second on his left one in a year.
With Alex Dunbar, Mark Bennett and Duncan Taylor also toiling with injury it will be a relief to head coach Vern Cotter that at least one of his wounded centres is on course for a quicker than feared recovery.
Scotland’s first warm-up match is against Ireland in Dublin on 15 August and Scott said yesterday: “It is realistic, that is what I am targeting.”
He was speaking at BT Murrayfield as the national squad returned to World Cup training camp after a short break. Scott was not on the trip to France as he continued his rehab on an injury that he said was both a new injury and a legacy of the one he suffered a year ago.
“I had to get my AC joint cleaned up, it was inflamed and causing me all sorts of trouble,” he explained. “One of my anchors from my previous operation had come a bit loose and there was a bone fragment in there causing me a bit of irritation, so I had to get that re-sewn up. There was no real lasting damage.
“I didn’t know that until I went into the operation when she [the surgeon] said it could be as routine as it turned out to be or if it had been a tear – it could have been four to six months, which would have been a really tight time schedule. I was delighted with the result.”
Scotland’s midfield has taken a battering injury-wise of late and, when asked if this was just bad luck or a reflection of the physical aspect of playing at centre in the modern game, Scott replied: “It is a bit of both.
“Some bad luck but you are right, the nature of the position now is more similar to back row and you are seeing guys in bigger collisions and things like that. Centre is certainly a position that has changed over the years, the guys have got bigger.”
Scott said that he was already struggling a bit with his shoulder going into the Six Nations and, in hindsight, it wasn’t the wisest move to play.
He said: “Even when I was back fit in the Six Nations, my shoulder was giving me a bit of gip and I feel like I played way under where I should be playing and it is quite hard mentally to get your head round it.
“It is a good life lesson, one moment you are injury free, starting every week and thinking this is an easy job. Then it is a real test of character, being almost forgotten about.
“Everything I try to do is inhibited by my shoulder, I just felt I could not put in a good performance. Physically with rugby nowadays, if you are not physically near the top you are going to struggle on the pitch, no matter how sharp you are feeling skills-wise. My body was just not able to do what I wanted it to do. It has been tough, I wanted to keep positive and control everything I can control.”
Scott is doing contact work again and is enjoying being back in the main body of the squad as the seemingly endless build-up to this year’s tournament in England starts to tick a bit nearer.
“I have been taking a bit of contact, which has been fine. It is just a case of building it up before I can go in full smash,” he said. “I got the all-clear a week ago. I had a test at the hospital, strength and endurance in it, and it was way better than it was last time I came back from the last operation. I don’t know what that meant, if the last operation was not as strong or the operation did not work as well. I know I am stronger than the last time I came back, which is a comfort I suppose.”
The story of 22-year-old Preston Lodge prop Darren Eales being banned for two years after taking anabolic steroids has been a topic of conversation among the squad, and Scott said the case was a sharp reminder that such actions are “cheating” and “not worth the risk”.
He said: “A few of the boys have been talking about that story that got released. People think you must be offered it [steroids] but there is absolutely nothing I have come across in my whole life and nobody has offered me anything.
“Guys at this level know you just can’t. It is not worth the risk. You just can’t do it. It does not cross anybody’s mind. Guys in the lower leagues sometimes think they are not going to get tested and it is not necessarily for them to enhance their rugby, they are doing it for aesthetic reasons sometimes.
“It is a shame he isn’t going to be able to play for a couple of years but it is an important lesson. It is great that the SRU and the doping authorities take such a strict policy line on it. It is unfair, it is cheating and there is no place for it in the game.”
With the game becoming ever more physical, there is a pressure to bulk up, but Scott is adamant that hard work is the only way to go.
He added: “My message would be that I have seen a lot of guys come into the professional game as wiry guys and, with good diet and a good training programme, they have become really good athletes. You have to mad to consider taking anything like that, especially in an age when testing is more stringent and frequent. I would encourage guys to just stay away from it. It isn’t worth it.
“When I was living with David Denton we had testers turn up at six in the morning to test us. It can happen at any time and it is just not worth it. I answered the door but they were here for Dave so trying to wake up a sleeping bear was the most difficult part!”