IN September last year Ruaridh Jackson’s career with new club Wasps was stopped in its tracks before it had even begun. Now, this September, he is determined to be hitting the heights with Scotland at the Rugby World Cup.
As soon as he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in his left knee playing for his English employers ten months ago Jackson, now 27, had two goals in his mind.
The first was to get back fit before the end of the club season and the second was to earn himself a place in Vern Cotter’s Scotland training squad ahead of the World Cup coming up in September and October.
He managed to achieve both and now the former Glasgow Warriors man, who already has 25 Scotland caps, is keen to make up for lost time.
“The injury was an innocuous one. I didn’t have the ball even, I was defending and the guy went to step inside and I went to step off my left leg to tackle him and it gave way,” the stand-off from Aberdeen explained.
“I felt a popping sensation. I knew at that point it was something I had never felt before and feared the worst – which it was.
“It was always my target to come back by the end of the season though I always knew it would be nip and tuck. I had one minor setback with a slight hammy tweak, but apart from that the rehab and all that went smoothly.
“Fortunately for me I did not have a complicated rehab, it is just a long slog and at the end of the day a lot of guys have had it a lot worse.
“There were some dark moments, as ever, but I’m pretty happy with the way it has gone and am firmly focused on my next step.
“Hopefully what I have done in the past for Scotland holds some sway – now is it a case of showing that I do deserve to be here.
“I have to train hard and then if I get a chance in one of the warm-up games I have got to take it, though I also have to be realistic in that there will be a little bit of rust – it will be 11 months since I last played a game.”
The warm-up matches that Jackson talks about begin on 15 August when Scotland travel to Ireland.
After that they take on Italy twice (22 and 29 August) and then France (5 September).
In between the second Italy match and the France encounter Scotland head coach Cotter will trim his squad from 47 as it is now to the 31 who will be heading to the World Cup and on to the Pool B opener with Japan on 23 September.
Although Jackson has played in a World Cup before – the poor campaign in New Zealand four years ago – since his last caps on the first part of the summer tour last year Finn Russell has well and truly established himself as Scotland’s first choice stand-off.
And with Duncan Weir also back and fully fit, Jackson knows he has got a real battle on his hands to make the final cut.
“It’s great for the country that we’ve got a few more operators at stand-off now, I’m sure it has giving the coaches a wee bit of a headache,” he said.
“Finn has obviously had a great year, relatively unrivalled with myself and Duncy having been injured for long spells, but that’s allowed him a lot of game time which is key for a young player and he’s taken his chance brilliantly.
“I’d probably say Finn is the one in charge [to start matches] at the minute with me and Duncy chasing, but you’ve also got Pete Horne and Greig Tonks who can play at ten, so there are plenty of options there and it’s going to be fun to see who gets into the final squad. For me, being involved in full training and putting my hand up for selection is great – it is just fun to be out with the boys and actually doing some proper training.”
Jackson has been around the game long enough now to know that there are no easy matches at international level – and he and the rest of the squad are firmly focused on the first two World Cup encounters with Japan and the USA.
He said: “You look at Japan, at the moment they are starting to play some really good stuff and are being coached really well, the USA as well – rugby is building in that country too, with the Olympics and stuff they are starting to take it a lot more seriously.
“Both those teams are very tenacious and will go from minute zero to minute 80.”