Arron Darge, an up-and-coming defender with Hearts, was named on the bench for the recent match against St Johnstone. Injury eventually denied him the opportunity of a debut but the family is hopeful the teenager gets as chance later in the season as Hearts juggle domestic duties with the Europa Conference League.
Arron is making steady progress at Tynecastle but Rory believes his brother could also have prospered as a rugby player.
“There was zero chance of me going down the football route but he could have gone down the rugby route,” said the Glasgow Warriors back-row. “He played a bit as a back, with his feet and skill – a lot different to me.
“My football career lasted one training session. And I didn’t do much that was any good in that!”
Arron Darge, a centre-back, spent last season on loan at Gala Fairydean Rovers but has been playing for Hearts’ B team in the Lowland League during the early weeks of this campaign before being promoted to the first-team squad to play St Johnstone.
“He sent a message to me and my dad that he was on the bench. But he had played 90 minutes the night before for the B team and had picked up a little niggle,” explained Rory.
“He then sent another message an hour later saying he had been pulled for injury. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I was trying to get tickets and go and watch and hopefully see him get off the bench. Even if he didn’t it would have been great to go and watch and go to a game at Tynecastle. It’s never a bad way to spend your Sunday afternoon.
“Hearts have got European games and a lot of other games stacked up so there will hopefully be a chance for some of the younger players to get on the pitch.”
Rory believes football is a lot more ruthless than his own sport, but admits to being slightly envious of his brother’s workload.
“Football in Scotland is definitely more cutthroat than rugby. That’s pretty obvious,” said Rory, speaking at the launch of the new BKT United Rugby Championship season. “I’ve seen both sides of it and it’s pretty brutal out there. A lot more boys in Scotland grow up wanting to be football players than rugby players. But the training sessions don’t look as tough as ours. They don’t work as hard!”
He is speaking from recent experience. New coach Franco Smith is running a tight ship at Scotstoun and expects the players in at 7am.
Like the other Scotland players who toured Argentina in July, Darge returned later to his club and consequently will not be rushed back for the start of the season. He’ll be missed but, with the Rugby World Cup less than a year away, both player and club need to play the long game.
Darge isn’t sure when he will be available but will not be involved in Friday’s friendly with Ulster. He could also miss the early rounds of the URC as Glasgow travel to Benetton then host Cardiff.
“Maybe for the first couple of weekends of games I will be rested but I am not 100 per cent sure,” said the openside. Next year’s World Cup in France is the ultimate goal and Scotland’s international players are likely to be managed carefully over the course of the campaign.
“Hopefully I play well enough for Glasgow this year to be picked to go to the World Cup,” he said. “That is the aspiration.”
Glasgow’s campaign fizzled out alarmingly last season with five straight defeats, most egregiously in the URC quarter-final in Dublin against Leinster. The 76-14 loss hastened the departure of Danny Wilson as head coach and the appointment of Smith.
“He has made some slight tweaks in our game plan and definitely got his ideas and some of them are different to what we are used to,” said Darge. “It is a different culture and everyone has bought in massively and having belief in his systems is going to be key to how we start this season and how we continue.
“We just need to look at what we can do better and hopefully that will end up what makes the difference. We have talked a lot about standards in training and Franco will try to put his imprint on our game plan as well so we won’t see what we look like until we start playing competitive games.
“It was more the end of last season when things went wrong. There was a lot of good stuff at the start of the season and it is about how we maintain that and up standards and always being on it as professionals. That is the big thing. Franco speaks very honestly and passionately and we can tell he has so much rugby knowledge that he wants to give us. That is good for us.”
Glasgow were in the top echelons of the table for most of the campaign but fell away, eventually finishing eighth. It was enough to reach the URC play-offs but Edinburgh pipped them for the Scottish-Italian Shield.
“I was pretty much gutted at the way it ended last season even though I was not involved in the last couple of games,” said Darge.
“We had a tough run of away games with the two South African teams, then Lyon, then Edinburgh, then Leinster and that was the end of our season. They were all tough games to win in their own right but something obviously went wrong in that last Leinster game.
“It wasn’t so much the motivation as our standards leading up to that. Were we all doing enough? We are definitely pushing to make sure that never happens again.”