SEAN LAMONT has declared himself fit and ready for Glasgow’s meeting with Montpellier in Pool Four of the European Rugby Champions Cup at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir tomorrow evening.
The powerful back suffered a rib injury in the Guinness Pro12 loss at Ulster 13 days ago, which sidelined him from the thrashing of English Aviva Premiership side Bath at Scotstoun last Saturday.
Lamont has been boosted by his inclusion in the Scotland squad, as a member of a 17-strong Glasgow contingent, selected by head coach Vern Cotter for the viagogo Autumn Test Series against Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga.
He has also been aided by an extra week’s recovery and now the 33-year-old is hungry for a return to the fray against the French and determined to help Glasgow secure a victory that could put them in pole position in their bid to escape the pool stages of the tournament for the first time.
“I feel strong, fresh and fully recovered and very much up for the Montpellier game, if selected,” said Lamont. “We have given ourselves a great platform into this game with the victory over Bath and, if we can go to Montpellier and replicate the quality of the performance we produced in the opener, then we can give ourselves every chance of a good result,” said Lamont.
“But we are under no illusion as to how tough this will be. Montpellier have one of the most powerful packs in the European game and across the backs you look at the strike options they have, with the likes of the Fijian Timoci Nagusa who got a try against Toulouse last week, who is a real threat, and defensively we will have to be very solid.
“If anything, Montpellier’s defeat at Toulouse last Sunday will only make them even more determined to beat us, especially in front of their fans. So we know that we set ourselves a benchmark in terms of our performance against Bath and we are going to have to lift that again tomorrow.
“When you are playing in the European Rugby Champions’ Cup, you know that there are no easy games and, in terms of the quality in Pool Four, with Toulouse and Montpellier being two of the strongest sides in the French Top-14 and with the way Bath have started in the English Premiership, I don’t think we could have asked for a tougher group.
“That said, the main thing is we have made a great start to the tournament and now it is all about building on that and not letting it slip away.”
Turning his attention to the prospect of playing a significant part for Scotland in the forthcoming internationals, which will start at Murrayfield on Saturday, 8 November, against an Argentina side buoyed by their first ever victory over Australia in the Rugby Championship, Lamont admits that his positional flexibility could be the key to extending his international career all the way through to the Rugby World Cup 2015 in 11 months’ time.
“From my point of view, with the level of competition there is in the squad, then it is only going to help me that I have more than one club in the bag,” said Lamont.
“While you want to start every game, if you don’t and you are on the bench and the fact I can cover either at centre or on the wing, then that increases the options for the coaching staff if there are injuries and also the level of opportunity for me in terms of coming on.
“But it is all about having competition for places and we have that across the backs with Scotland [and] also, of course, at Glasgow. At centre, Mark Bennett scored two great tries against Bath and Alex Dunbar started the season on fire for Warriors. Then you look at the wings, with Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour playing as well as they are for Glasgow and you have Tim Visser in there too and others beside.
“So if you are starting for Scotland this autumn you will be doing well. But although the Rugby World Cup is still just under a year away the Autumn Series is the first step towards that, internationally speaking, so the better you do in that the stronger your chances for the Six Nations and so on.
“But the foundation for all of that is your club form and I just want to be back playing for Glasgow over the next couple of weeks against Montpellier in Europe and then Treviso in the Pro 12 and make sure I am as sharp as possible.”
• International rugby will be played in Ayrshire for the first time this November when Scotland take on Tonga at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock, in their final viagogo Autumn Test match (Saturday 22 November, kick-off 2:30pm). Tickets are available from £18 per adult, £10 for students and under-18s. Up to two under-12s can go free with the purchase of one adult ticket.