Calcutta Cup: Rory Sutherland’s reputation is well earned after impressive 2020 with Scotland

Rory Sutherland quietly made himself a cornerstone of Scotland’s scrum during last year’s Six Nations, making his considerable presence felt as Scotland beat Italy, France and Wales after narrow defeats by Ireland and England.

Rory Sutherland training with the Scotland squad at Oriam. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

If there was a sense he slipped under the radar he is unlikely to go unnoticed this year.

At six feet and 17.5 stone the prop is hard to miss and opposition coaches have had plenty opportunity to note his abilities.

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Scotland open their campaign against England at Twickenham on Saturday and while Sutherland recognises their recent achievements under Eddie Jones he still feels the visitors can “do a job on them”.

Rory Sutherland takes the game to England during last season's Six Nations match at Murrayfield. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

“England have won the last Six Nations and got the Autumn Nations Cup too,” he said. “We will be going down there with a lot of respect.

“It is a new campaign. We will prepare for it as well as we can this week and do the best we can go down there and do a job on them.”

Sutherland is focused on the here and now but knows his 2020 form could make him a marked man.

“A bit of a reputation is nice, and it’s nice to hear good things from people about the way I am playing,” he said. “But it is about keeping a head of steam up and making sure I perform week in, week out.”

Sutherland credits Scotland scrum coach Pieter de Villiers with improving his technique. The South African-born former France prop joined the squad ahead of last year’s Six Nations and quickly made his presence felt.

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“Pieter has done a lot for me,” said Sutherland. “He’s very good at passing his knowledge across to the players and he’s good at fixing the bits in the scrum that we aren’t doing so well.

“He's done wonders for me over the past year or so, just working on technical areas of my scrummaging. He's not trying to reinvent the wheel, just looking at the little technical aspects.”

At 28, Sutherland is no newcomer. He made his international debut as a replacement against Ireland in the 2016 Six Nations then toured Japan. But his progress was stalled by a career-threatening injury.

The Edinburgh forward required a bilateral adductor reconstruction and was bed-bound for a month and house-bound for another two. It’s testament to his determination and the support of his wife Tammy that he was able to battle back and reclaim his place for club and country.

It also means he can put minor issues into perspective, such as the back problem which caused him to miss Edinburgh’s win over Zebre last month.

“It was just a bit of a freak accident,” he explained. “I was feeling a little stiff after the [Glasgow] game and went into the gym on Monday and went to do an exercise and wasn’t feeling right so went to the physio and went into spasm.

“It only took a week to recover and I have been well looked after and am ready to go. Missing games is the first thing that goes through your mind when you get an injury but I was fortunate that it was only a week.”

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