Graeme Morrison relishes competition for place at Glasgow

THERE was a wry smile playing across the face of Graeme Morrison yesterday when the Scotland internationalist was named in the Glasgow side, and then asked to ponder the level of competition around him in the Warriors back line.

He said he felt it was the strongest he had ever known, and after ten years in the pro game – the longest-serving Glasgow player – the former Dollar Academy pupil admitted it had brought a new edge to his desire to get back from a 2012 dogged by injury. Morrison started last year in the Scotland set-up, but after suffering a knee injury Andy Robinson left him off the summer tour, telling the big centre to stay at home and get fit as he looked at a new midfield with Matt Scott in the No 12 jersey.

Morrison duly did so, only to break down in the first weeks of the new season with knee trouble, and spent another three months out of the game.

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“It has been really long and frustrating,” he acknowledged. “I felt I was in really good shape and played the first couple of games and my knee felt it had had enough, and I had some injections in it and it needed time then to settle down, but 11 weeks watching is pretty tough, especially when the guys are going pretty well.

“But I am happy to say that it feels a lot better now. The medical staff have been great and kept me patient, but I’m desperate to play.”

And so, what chances does he give himself now, in an environment where Sean Lamont, Peter Horne, Alex Dunbar and Byron McGuigan are all pushing for Glasgow berths with Scott, Nick De Luca and Max Evans also on the Scottish radar? The smile widens as Morrison acknowledges a level of challenge that could ultimately benefit him.

“Peter Horne has come in and done a really good job,” he said. “I am very happy he’s done that because he’s helped us get to where we are in the league, and he offers a kicking option as well, which is good, but it’s just been extra motivation for me to get back. Competition is very healthy and I don’t think we’ve had a back five with as much talent as we do at the moment.

“It makes it tough to get in the team … but I’m very happy with the environment we’ve got here now.”

Morrison has always had a deep desire to win, but with now 35 caps and more than 130 pro games under his belt, has borne the weight of expectations as the team struggled to unearth consistency.

Working hard with Gregor Townsend to develop his skills, the 30-year-old now has a wealth of support across the back division, if he can find his way back into it, never mind a Scotland jersey.

“I’ve been desperate to get back and you could say coming back now is a positive thing [for Scotland contention], but I’m really not focusing on Scotland at the moment,” he added. “It’s about getting game-time under my belt and playing well for Glasgow.

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“Treviso have got a raft of international players… Italians that have beaten Scotland and know how to beat Scottish teams and they’ll be hurting from us beating them over there, so we are only looking as far as this game.”