'‘He pushes me when I’m slacking!’ - Matt Fagerson on how big brother Zander drives him on

Looking up to big brother is a useful trait when your older sibling is tearing up front rows across Europe. Matt Fagerson won his eighth cap last Sunday when Scotland lost to France, and Zander looked on from the bench with fraternal pride before joining the fray alongside junior early in the second half.

Zander and Matt Fagerson ahead of Scotland's match with France. Picture: Craig Williamson / SNS

It wasn’t the first time they’d played together for their country and it certainly won’t be the last. There is a sense that these two could be around the Scotland pack for some time.

Matt is just 22 and one of a quartet of contenders for the No 8 jersey in Gregor Townsend’s side. Zander, two years his senior, is firmly established at tighthead prop and is being touted as a Lions contender for next year’s tour of South Africa.

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His progress has not gone unnoticed by Matt who has nothing but admiration for the way his brother has grafted to reach the heights.

Matt Fagerson impressed at No 8 in the Autumn Nations Cup loss to France. Picture: Craig Williamson / SNS

“It’s been incredible in the last year-and-a-half watching where he’s come and how he’s improved his game with his willingness to improve and to learn and to work as hard as a back row in the front row,” says Fagerson junior.

“That’s testament to the character he is and to what he does and how valuable he is around the team.

“He’s definitely one of the best tightheads in the whole of Europe and he shows that week in, week out but the best thing about him is he wants to learn more and more.

“He knows he is not the finished article and that’s a pretty awesome thing, to be playing the way he is at how young he is and have everything else going on around him. It’s pretty cool.”

The pair spur each other on and, as is the way with brothers, there is healthy competition, dating back to childhood.

“Yeah, be it in the garden, on the X-Box or whatever,” acknowledged Matt. “He pushes me in the gym, he pushes me on the pitch, if I’m slacking, walking or whatever he’ll be the first to pull me up and if he’s not working hard enough, I’m the same.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry but it’s a really good pressure we put on each other and it only makes us better.”

There’s also plenty of competition for the No 8 berth in the Scotland side, with Fagerson taking the jersey back from Blade Thomson after recovering from an ankle injury. Cornell du Preez and Nick Haining are also in the mix in what is one of the most keenly contested positions in Gregor Townsend’s side.

“We get on really well – Cornell, Nick, Blade and myself,” said Fagerson who will look to get the nod for the final Autumn Nations Cup match next weekend. “We’ve all got our own strengths and whoever is playing has to bring their own game and express themselves. You’ve seen them do that.

“Everyone is wanting to play and there is that level of competition. So everyone is on their toes whether it’s myself, Blade or Cornell. We’re all pushing each other in training. Everyone wants to get that place and it’s about taking that opportunity when you get it.”

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