Scotland v Ireland: Sam Johnson ready to reclaim the No 12 jersey

Sam Johnson is looking to reclaim the No 12 jersey when Scotland take on Ireland on Sunday after a frustrating season for the Glasgow centre.

Sam Johnson is back in the Scotland squad after missing the first two Six Nations matches. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

He missed the first two rounds of the Six Nations and was then called into the squad for the France game only for it to be postponed.

It was typical of the luck Johnson has experienced over the course of a Covid-affected campaign which has left him kicking his heels for much of it.

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He was initially sidelined by a knee injury and was then one of 20 Glasgow players who had to self-isolate after facing Exeter when the English club returned a string of positive tests. A couple of days after returning, he was deemed a close contact of another potential Covid case.

It is only in recent weeks that Sam Johnson has managed to put together a run of games for Glasgow Warriors. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

It is only in the last few weeks that Johnson has managed to put together a sequence of matches, playing against Ulster, Leinster and Zebre.

“It was my third game in a row which was the first time that had happened since this time last year,” he said of Saturday’s win over the Italian club.

“To play consecutive rugby is always a bonus. I was disappointed not to be in the original [Six Nations] squad but I completely understood. I was sitting in isolation for the best part of a month fully fit. But that’s Covid isn’t it?”

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In his absence Cam Redpath enjoyed an outstanding international debut at inside centre in Scotland’s win at Twickenham last month but suffered a neck injury. Gregor Townsend opted for James Lang in the narrow loss to Wales and it now looks like a straight fight between the Harlequins man and Johnson as to who gets the nod at 12 against Ireland at Murrayfield.

“Hopefully I get picked and go from there,” said Johnson. “I played a fair bit before this year and it is getting that consistency again. As a person I play my best rugby when I play continuously, week after week and I haven’t had the chance to do that this season.

“We will see who Gregor picks and if I get an opportunity to wear the 12 jersey this week I will take it with both hands and give it my best crack.”

Johnson’s exploits for Scotland are still fresh in the memory, with the Aussie-born centre scoring three tries in his first six Tests.

The first of those came against Sunday’s opponents in the 2019 Six Nations and he followed it up with that world class effort against England at Twickenham in the remarkable 38-38 draw.

He has faced the Irish three times at international level and been on the losing side on each occasion but is heartened by Scotland’s form.

“We want to continue the momentum the boys have built,” he added. “I was in camp for that France week and it was really disappointing not to play that game.

“We know the test that is going to come against Ireland. We seem to have played them a lot over the last couple of years and they’ve probably had the upper hand, but I feel that a lot of things have changed in camp and everyone is really enjoying each other’s company and we will prepare well this week and give it our best shot on Sunday.”

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