Eleven years ago Ruaridh Jackson was the next big thing in a number ten shirt, and now the prodigal Warrior has morphed into Glasgow’s father figure in his new position at full-back.
He has always been the most approachable of players and Jackson was in good spirits yesterday as he talked about both his one-year contract extension with Glasgow and, of course, his burgeoning gin business.
“I’m delighted to put pen to paper,” said Jackson at a press conference yesterday. “I’ve loved my time back here at Glasgow, moving back up north has definitely reinvigorated me.
“There have been opportunities that I maybe didn’t expect at the start. Getting the 15 slot, with Hoggy taking an extended rest over the last couple of seasons!
“I’ve managed to get a lot of game-time and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s testing with a lot of these younger boys keeping the older guys on our toes.”
Jackson is still only 31 but given that his breakthrough game occurred way back in 2008 against Bath in the old Heineken Cup it’s fair to say that the fly-half/full-back has a fair few miles on the clock.
His new contract is for one year, with the club retaining an option to extend by another 12 months, and coach Dave Rennie will surely need his versatile veteran. Stuart Hogg is off to Exeter in the summer and goodness knows how many Warriors will be in Scotland’s World Cup squad.
Jackson played throughout the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, missed out four years later and hasn’t entirely given up all hope of making the flight to Tokyo, although he is realistic about his prospects.
“I might sneak in if there’s a few injuries,” he says with a rueful smile. “But I know probably where I’m at and I’m not pinning all my hopes on making it. If the likes of Hoggy and Blair [Kinghorn] are fit, they’ll be in. Then there’s other guys who can cover like Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour. So I would probably need a few people to go down injured to make it. But, you never know, stranger things have happened. I could be the next Stephen Donald! But I think my focus will largely be on Glasgow next year.”
Jackson has more immediate worries to attend to, notably Glasgow’s final match of the regular season against Edinburgh next weekend with everything it entails, a home semi-final and what could be a last shot at silverware. When put on the spot Jackson concedes his own personal trophy cabinet is bare.
Jackson left Glasgow for Wasps just before the Warriors won the Pro12 Championship in 2015 and then he had a couple of semi-final defeats with the Coventry-based club.
“I’ve never won, I missed out on the league title, they won it the year after I left, we lost in the final in my [last] year,” says Jackson.
“I like the analogy, (of me) loosening the lid and then they finished the job!
“It gives me huge motivation to continue the work. I have mentioned that retirement is near, though hopefully not for a good couple of years yet. It is something that will drive me on to hopefully get a league title and push on in Europe as much as possible. The year I left, when we lost in the final, was one of the worst moments, getting so close but not across the finishing line. I was delighted that they won it the next year but it does hurt a little that I did not get to enjoy those moments with some of my best mates. I have huge motivation to come back and win something.”
A room full of journalists is too good an opportunity to let slip when a young entrepeneur has just launched a brand new spirit. Garden Shed Gin, started by Jackson and former team-mate Ryan Grant, was beholden, like all the best ideas, to beer, if Jackson is to be believed.
“When I first moved up, I was staying at Ryan’s and we were having a few beers. He was getting close to retirement and I am getting there now as well. He just said ‘I think we could make gin’ and I was just, ‘yeah, whatever mate’; he was ‘yeah, I reckon we could’.
“So we bought a little still online and started mucking about. A good few months of moonshining in the back garden, having a good few drinks led to what we thought was a pretty good recipe.” A few bottles will be cracked open if Glasgow win next weekend and finish atop Conference A.