The Scotland flanker, who turned 27 on Tuesday, was deemed surplus to requirements at Glasgow last season and was picked up by the Scarlets. It was a controversial move by Glasgow not to offer the popular Warriors servant a new contract, and there was a twist at the end when his plan to end the season on tour with Scotland was scuppered by a decision that he undergo surgery earlier than expected. “I had a shoulder injury and it needed operating on,” he explained, “and initially we thought I’d tour and then have the op, but after speaking to the coaches, and my family, and realising that if I went on tour and then had surgery once I got back I might not make the autumn Tests, we decided to get it done now.
“It was frustrating because I felt I’d finished the season really well with Glasgow and was in some of my best form, and I wanted to take that on tour and try and push my way back into the Test squad. I suffered a torn hamstring after the Tonga defeat last year which kept me out of the Six Nations and I was desperate to get back. But, looking at it now, it was the right decision. My wife Hayley and I had just had our first baby, we had a move to Wales to sort out and it meant we could head to Wales together and I could start my rehab.
“Now, I’m back fit. I was blowing a bit in my first game back last week, but I’m looking forward to really building up over the next few weeks, helping the Scarlets get back on track and pushing my case with Scotland again.”
It starts tomorrow night with their RaboDirect PRO12 match against Edinburgh at Murrayfield, with both teams seeking only their second win of the season. The visitors shipped 42 points at home in their opener to Leinster, defeated Treviso and then lost 23-16 in Barclay’s Scarlets debut away to the Dragons last weekend and sit one point above bottom-placed Edinburgh. He views this week’s trip as no different to many he faced along the M8 when in Glasgow colours, but admits that it will feel strange when it comes to meeting his old team in Llanelli next week. “I’ve become quite used to playing Edinburgh, albeit with a shorter trip to Murrayfield, and so it doesn’t feel any different preparing this week really, but I know that it will be strange next week, and particularly later in the season when the Scarlets play at Scotstoun,” he said. “I have so many friends in Glasgow and the supporters were fantastic to me so that will be tough, but life moves on and I’ve settled in quickly at the Scarlets and really looking forward to trying to make a difference here. I’ve not learned much Welsh yet. I can say ‘bore da’, which is ‘good morning’, but I’m not sure about the saucepan song [Llanelli’s famous Sosban Fach ‘little saucepan’ anthem]. That might take a while to get the tongue round!”
For the moment, finding his match fitness and making a mess of Edinburgh and Glasgow attacks is uppermost in his mind.
“I have a new club and new loyalties, at least in the RaboDirect,” he added, “and I want to get back into the form I was in at the end of last year. First I need to get my match fitness back up there and then I need to get up to speed quickly and find that form, because, as always seems to be the case in Scotland, we have quite a few quality back rows kicking about so it will be tough to get into the autumn squads.
“Scarlets winning games against Scottish sides I would think will help my cause. I think Scarlets traditionally have quite a good record against Edinburgh, but we expect them to be tougher this week with new coaches and coming off a bad result.
“We need to get wins on the board early and the guys say it’s been frustrating in the past couple of seasons because they’ve lost a few players, but I know what that feels like having been through that with Glasgow. Now Glasgow are motoring on and the Scarlets have the same plans to add to their strength in depth this and next season, and we have some good players down here, guys like Ken Owens and Jon Davies who I’ve played against, but you don’t realise how good they are until you train with them.
“The standard is high in Welsh rugby and I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot as a player. But right now it’s all about getting us winning and up the table, and so all the focus is on Murrayfield, which is not unusual for me.”
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