Zander Fagerson hit his target of recovering from a lower leg break suffered last September in time to take some part in the Six Nations, but then missed out on Scotland’s astonishing fightback against England last weekend.
However, the Glasgow prop is surprisingly sanguine about being so close but not quite a part of that once-in-a-generation Scotland performance.
Fagerson was added to the Scotland squad for their round three match against France, after just 50 minutes of action for Glasgow against Cardiff Blues the preceding week. He played the final 16 minutes in Paris as part of a bench clearance which really invigorated the team after a hapless opening hour but was then left out of the match-day squad for the final two matches of the campaign after WP Nel returned from the calf injury he picked up against Italy.
It must have been frustrating for such a competitive animal to be that near to picking up caps number 20 and 21 but not quite close enough, especially as he had been used to being involved whenever fit during the three years since making his international debut.
Missing Scotland’s dramatic 38-38 draw against England will have been particularly hard to swallow as he was down at Twickenham with the team as 24th man – warming up with the side before watching the game from the stands. But Fagerson insisted he felt nothing but pride at his international team-mates’ battling display.
“I gave them the energy in the warm-up,” he joked, alluding to the fact that few teams have ever started an international match as badly as Scotland did on Saturday. “The boys put a really awesome performance in during the second half, so I’m really proud of them – but my focus is getting back playing for Glasgow.
“I’ve not enjoyed a game of rugby for a long time like I did that Cardiff match, I was just buzzing to be back,” he added. “Then I got an opportunity against France and did alright, but I knew I needed game time and so I’ve just focused on that. I’m three games in now – it is frustrating – but it is what it is.”
Perhaps Fagerson’s easy-come-easy-go attitude can be linked to the fact he is about to become a father for the first time. He admits he is not much fun to be around when he isn’t getting his regular match-day fix, but reckons the prospect of parenthood has helped him understand there is no use concerning himself about things which are outwith his control.
“It was tough when I first got injured,” he said. “My wife was suffering from morning sickness and not feeling great, and I was on crutches or in my mobility scooter, so I could get the groceries, but I couldn’t really do much else. We’ve two little dogs who were going nuts as well.
“We had some tough days, but it [becoming a parent] puts everything into perspective. I’m not just playing for me anymore. Rugby is my job and I absolutely love it to bits, but it’s not the be-all and end-all – life goes on. I’ve got bigger things to think about now, that change in life balance is going to be really good for me.”
Don’t take this as an indication that the tighthead prop has lost any of the passion for the game which makes him such a formidable performer for both Glasgow and Scotland when fit and in form.
“I’ve worked hard on my conditioning, my upper body is stronger than it has been for a long time – since being in the academy, I’d say,” said the 23-year-old.
“Getting my head away from rugby has made me really want to come back. The ankle has been sweet, it took a bit of time to come around, but it seems to have – touch wood – settled down now. I feel great.”
Fagerson was speaking on the same day as fellow props D’Arcy Rae and Alex Allan put pen to paper on two-year contract extensions which will keep them with Glasgow until at least the summer of 2021.