It is perhaps unfair to categorise Rob Harley as an old man before his time, but he has certainly always carried himself in a way which suggests that the foolishness and naivety of youth are alien concepts.
The big back-rower says he is a stone and a half heavier than when he made his Glasgow Warriors debut against Leinster in 2010, but that apart he doesn’t seem to have changed during the last eight years.
At 27, and having just signed a two-year contract extension, he surely has a few miles left on the clock, but he does confess to having felt the march of time in recent months – and not just because he gained club legend status when he made his 178th appearance for the Warriors, surpassing Graeme Morrison’s previous record.
“I’ve been feeling old for a while, but that’s just because of these young guys coming through into the squad, like Matt Smith and Matt Fagerson – who are great players and always challenging the older guys,” he explained.
The task now facing Harley and his fellow senior players is keeping up with the youngsters because he believes they are way ahead of where he was at their age.
“What is impressive is that they are 20 or 21 years old and physically developed to not only play but lead at this level. Matt Smith is very strong in the gym – among the strongest back-rows at the club – so he is not at a disadvantage when he plays against guys who are much older.”
“I think back to when I was coming through and getting my first games at Firhill, I was a stone to a stone and a half lighter than I am now, and having to play catch-up.”
“That’s maybe down to professionalism being around for a bit longer, particularly here at Glasgow. In my first few years we trained in venues across the city, but we’ve made real strides in how we operate and how we look after players.”
“Also, in the last couple of years they have really started pushing guys to think about the mental side of the game – to use sports psychology to make sure you can fully maximise your potential – and I think that has had a really big impact.”
Harley might be an old dog trying to learn new tricks, but he has no intention of letting the young whippets steal a march on him.
“I don’t like to look too far ahead,” he said. “I believe in taking the next game as it comes, so we’re very focused on Zebre this week – but in the back of my head, signing [the contract] means that hopefully I can make it hard for these young guys to get close to the record for a while. It would be nice to put a good distance between me and them.”