RYAN Grant is tanned, looking as fit as a butcher’s whippet and he talks pretty well, too.
He is good on the Scotland rugby squad’s boot camp in the French Pyrenees, cuddling up to the “bigger lads” at the top of the mountain because they were warmer. Grant says that it wasn’t particularly enjoyable but, then again, it wasn’t supposed to be so that’s all right.
But the assembled journalists and the Scotland loosehead prop are just shadow boxing and, looking at the biceps fighting their way out of his shirt sleeves, that is probably just as well, for everyone’s sake. This is the first time that Grant has faced the press since the curious incident of the rammy in the kebab shop which resulted in Glasgow Hawks’ player Ally Maclay being hospitalised.
The journalists lob him a couple of pat questions which he knocks back over the net without too much trouble but the kebab shop incident, the resulting trial and the 14-odd months of slow-drip water torture that separated them are the only things on anyone’s mind and it is only a matter of time before the topic rears its ugly head. Did the whole incident detract from his rugby?
“It was a huge distraction,” Grant replies. “It was unpleasant for myself and my family and everyone else involved.”
It probably wasn’t a bed of roses for Maclay either.
Grant adds: “I am glad that is behind me now. It was what it was, I am glad that it’s behind me now.”
Grant doesn’t apologise, because that would imply guilt of some sort and, just for the record, the charges against him were “not proven”, that peculiarly Scottish verdict that satisfies no one – not guilty, but not exonerated.
So the Scottish Rugby Union’s press office brains’ trust has opted for “regrettable” and Grant adds of continuing to play for Glasgow: “I still had a job to do at the end of the day and you try your best to get on with it.
“It’s not an easy thing to forget about. Like I’ve said, the whole situation is very regrettable and I’m glad we’re past it now and I have other things to focus on. I became a dad a couple of months ago.”
There is little question that the unsavoury incident affected Grant on and off the field. Ahead of his brush with Glasgow’s constabulary he had been a late call-up into the British and Irish Lions squad which toured Australia in 2013 and was a shoo-in for the Scotland No 1 shirt. After the incident, Grant started the Six Nations of 2014 but he was a shadow of his former self and subsequently lost his place to Alasdair Dickinson, who deserved his chance.
He wasn’t helped by the change in the engage protocols at the set scrum. Grant had always been very “fast” on the engage so the shortened space, with the props having to bind first, undermined at least some of his effectiveness but there is no doubt, in his mind or anyone else’s, that the threat of criminal charges hanging over him for over a year sapped his spirit.
Thankfully, that seems to be on the mend, with a loving wife and a new baby girl who appears to have brought some stability to dad’s life and perhaps even some extra motivation.
“When you are young you talk about kids but now that I’ve got one I can’t believe that I didn’t have one sooner,” says the prop. “She’s a little angel. She just makes everything seem like it’s worthwhile doing. The rugby, pushing that extra half yard, because it’s for her now it’s worth it.”
Physically back to his best and the only distractions in his life positive ones, Grant looks in the shape of his life and presumably he is targeting that number one shirt that was once his for the asking?
“Yeah, absolutely,” he replies. “Like I said I just want to put that behind me and with a new daughter I just want to get back on track. Get back to where I was, get back to playing my best rugby and get the number one jersey back. I have kind of blacked out that part [the kebab shop] of my memory, I try not to think about it. I missed the November internationals through injury and I missed the start of the Six Nations and Dicko [Alasdair Dickinson] has been playing outstanding for Edinburgh and for Scotland.
“So I have a big mountain to climb in front of me but I just need to focus on me, get back to where I was, get back to playing my best and just see what happens after that.”