Barring injuries, the lock forward position is a bit of a closed shop in Scotland at the moment but, given half a chance, there are guys like Edinburgh’s Lewis Carmichael who are champing at the bit for an opportunity.
The second-row combinations of Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings at Glasgow and Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis at Edinburgh are pretty much set in stone if all are fit, not only for the big club games but also for the international squad.
Carmichael is emerging from a lost year to an anterior cruciate ligament injury and the 24-year-old feels he is now knocking on the door after playing the full 80 minutes on his sixth start of the season in Edinburgh’s 61-13 home win over Southern Kings last Saturday.
“It was good,” said the former Melrose player, who grew up in North Berwick. “It’s been a couple of weeks since I played 80 minutes so, it’s great. Obviously, not playing a lot of rugby last year, I’m loving starting and loving my time on the field at the moment.”
Carmichael was the 1,095th player to represent Scotland and, back in the summer of 2018 against Canada in Edmonton, he joined an elite group who have marked their first caps with a try. It is a club headed by joint all-time record tryscorers Ian Smith and Tony Stanger, who scored a hat-trick and brace respectively in their first Test outings.
For now, Carmichael is looking to rebuild his club career first after a freak training accident in December 2018 wrecked his knee, and he hopes to be involved in France tomorrow when Edinburgh face Bordeaux-Begles in their Pool 3-topping European Challenge Cup clash.
“Obviously you want to be playing as much as you can, so I’ve got to take it when I can sort of thing,” said Carmichael. “Obviously I would have loved to have played in every game this season, but that just doesn’t happen when you’ve got two guys like Gilco [Grant Gilchrist] and Tooly [Ben Toolis] playing some of their best rugby this season.
“I’m just wanting to play every week, and doing everything I can in training to play every week.”
Edinburgh are flying high right now, topping Guinness Pro14 Conference B and have a chance to cement a quarter-final spot in Europe tomorrow afternoon, albeit against the form team in France.
“They [Top 14-leading Bordeaux] are a very big, physical team and we need to match their physicality, as a forward pack especially,” said Carmichael. “I think if we do that, away from home, then it’s anyone’s game kind of thing.
“So, as a forward pack, we need to meet fire with fire. And especially away from home, it’s a big task against these big French boys. So, it’s exciting.”
Carmichael reflected on a year wasted in terms of playing time but is now in a positive frame of mind about what potentially lies ahead. “It was obviously devastating, missing a full season of rugby. It was hard,” he admitted. “But the knee feels all good now and I’m just happy to be just trying to play catch-up on that season that I missed, to be fair.
“It’s obviously not ideal, being out for a year, but I’m glad I’m back now, fully fit.”
Carmichael signed a new contract with Edinburgh before Christmas and added: “It’s good that the club were interested and it’s good that my future is secure for a little while. So, that obviously takes a little bit of weight off my shoulders.
“It’s positive that they’re keen to have me after being out for a year. They’ve put their faith in me, so I’m just trying to reward that by playing well on the pitch at the moment.”