Veteran hooker Scott Lawson is clearly relishing every second of being back in the Scotland set-up after a three-and-a-half year gap and, after earning what would have been an unlikely recall until front-row players started dropping like flies this season, is going to do his damndest to stick around as long as he can.
The 36-year-old’s durability is evidenced by the fact he has been playing some of the best rugby of his career for a flying Newcastle Falcons side of late and has no thoughts of retirement on the near horizon. Lawson is more inclined to contemplate the possibility of beating the legendary Ian McLauchlan’s record for oldest Scotland appearance. Mighty Mouse was 37 when he faced the the All Blacks in 1979.
For the time being, though, Lawson, whose last cap for Scotland came against Argentina in the autumn of 2014, will go fourth on the list of golden oldies if he takes the field in the Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff a week on Saturday.
“When Ian was involved in the presidency he was brilliant, he was involved and held ultimate respect from all the players because of what he had achieved in the game,” said Lawson of the former Lions prop. “His big thing was ‘play as long as you can, enjoy it, you never, never go out of it, you are a long time retired’. I will keep going like that.
“To be mentioned in the same breath is ridiculous, crazy. It is one of those strange things that if you sat in a goal-setting meeting it is not one of those things you would bring up, it would not spring to mind, but why not? We will get these weeks out of the way first and you learn from experiences.”
Biggar man Lawson left Glasgow in 2007 and has enjoyed a good career in the English Premiership, playing for Sale, Gloucester and London Irish before four-and-a-half years ago becoming another of a long list of Scots who have found a happy home at Newcastle Falcons.
He had a brief involvement at the start of Vern Cotter’s Scotland tenure but had slipped out of the picture as the likes of Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally emerged and Ross Ford, for whom Lawson often deputised off the bench in his 46 Scotland outings, rolled on to become the country’s most-capped player.
There was, though, a lingering hope that another chance might come.
“You always keep an eye on things,” he said. “Playing at Newcastle, playing in the Premiership in a very successful team, you’re always working hard and trying to play at as high a level as possible.
“So you’re always aware of the situation and obviously if a couple of key figures get injured you’re always holding out that your performances you’ve put in over the last two or three years have been noted. That was the most pleasing thing for me, yes, you’ve been playing well and yes, you’ve been selected again.
“Gregor [Townsend] phoned me last Monday morning saying they were having the final selection that afternoon and he’d be in touch.
“Then [forwards coach] Dan [McFarland] phoned me and talked through a few things. What was expected of me, where the group was and how I’d fit into it. And I’m just delighted to be back.
“You always look out for the squads. You’re competitive and, if you keep playing and pulling on that professional jersey, you’ll always want to play for Scotland.”
A father of four, Lawson has thrived in England’s north-east and says having his kids see him represent Scotland will be as big a thrill as he has had in the sport.
While focused on squeezing as much out of his playing career as possible, he also has an eye on a future in coaching. In his spare time, Lawson has taken on the head coach role at the renowned Corbridge club Tynedale and has travelled to Scotland to help at Glasgow and the Under-20s.
“You become more professional, you learn how to look after your body. I genuinely don’t find it any harder,” said Lawson of his Indian summer.
“At Newcastle we had a real shift in our conditioning, our approach to the game and I’m feeling as good as I ever have done. I would say to take all that knowledge you’ve got, allied to feeling good physically I’m really looking forward to the challenge that an intense Six Nations championship brings.
“When you first come in, people say that, as a front-row, you’ll not be good until you’re in your thirties and you don’t really believe them as such, but your ability to problem solve, to fix things from scrum to scrum has definitely been one of my main improvements over the last four or five years.”
Enjoying his return to the international limelight, it seems like Lawson would happily spend the whole afternoon chatting but there is one point when he isn’t so keen to delve into the memory bank. The injury to George Turner has the hooker on course for a return to Cardiff, which was the scene of a personal and collective nightmare eight years ago as Scotland infamously threw away a ten-point lead in the last ten minutes to lose 31-24.
Lawson’s sin-binning sparked the collapse as the sky fell in spectacularly on Andy Robinson’s Scotland.
“I was yellow carded and Wales won the game,” is the succinct reply when asked for memories of a tumultuous and miserable afternoon which also saw Thom Evans’s career ended by a neck injury and Chris Paterson, who was winning his 100th cap, suffer a ruptured kidney.
“You learn from those experiences, you are always looking to evolve, to improve,” said Lawson. “You call on every experience you’ve have had in rugby to make you the player you are and the person you are as well.”
A chance for some kind of redemption a week on Saturday?
“It would be good to win the game, simple as that.”