The USA Eagles will field a lot of big lumps in tomorrow’s match against Scotland but very few of them are quite as muckle as Glasgow’s new recruit Greg Peterson. He was late to the press conference, which had the Eagles’ media manager bewailing his inability to find someone who stands 6ft 8in tall and tops the scales at 123 kgs – the hiding places are strictly limited.
Peterson boasts an interesting background. Both parents are American and dad Carl played college football at a high level but Junior was born and raised in Sydney and his accent is a slightly disconcerting hybrid of the two. Did he ever think of going down the same route as his father who is, not surprisingly, built along similar lines as Junior.
“I thought about it,” replies the mid-Pacific accent, “but if I was going to play professional sports I’d want to be the best of the best and go as far as I can and I thought that my best opportunity for that was rugby union.”
As a youngster Peterson says his first exposure to rugby was in the local park with some random kids. However his formal grounding in the game came, appropriately enough, at the famous Scots College. The school sits in the swanky Double Bay area of Sydney and it has been the breeding ground of countless international players, including the great Australian scrum-half of the 1960s Ken Catchpole, right up to current Wallaby Sam Carter. Peterson may well be the first of them to have transformed into an Eagle rather than a Wallaby.
Over the summer the big, bearded lock made a flying visit to Glasgow to meet his new colleagues but most of them were away, training with Scotland, so the formal introductions will have to await tomorrow’s match when the Eagles face Scotland at Elland Road in Leeds.
“It might be a bit awkward,” he admitted with a wry smile. “I got about a week and a half between the Pacific National Conference (PNC) and the pre-World Cup camp to go over and meet the boys and get to know them. Tolks [American coach Mike Tolkin] let me fly over and fly back pretty much.
“I am very excited for the game ahead, I’ll meet a lot of those boys on the field come Sunday. All the Scottish rep boys were away but I just met all the boys that didn’t make it and were preparing for the Clermont trial.
“Gregor [Townsend] approached me, just whispers down the wire and stuff. Eventually a meeting happened and it just went from there. I’m very excited. They have an excellent programme there. They are a good bunch of blokes, a good team. They won the Pro 12 last year and they are favourites to win it again so I am very excited to join that programme.”
Before that happens Peterson will take his place in the Eagles second row, one man mountain in a giant pack of forwards that will attempt to bully the Scots into submission.
Glasgow’s new recruit looks like their chosen hard man after he earned something of a reputation following two yellow cards in the build-up to this World Cup.
The first came against Canada in the PNC after he thumped someone for holding on to him miles from the action, which is the inevitable consequence of referees turning a blind eye to this nonsense. His second yellow wasn’t even for violence but rather for repeated misdemeanours against the Wallabies, several of whom he knew after spending a couple of seasons with the Waratahs before moving to Leicester Tigers at the start of last season.
In a show of what they are capable off the Eagles held their illustrious opponents to a 14-10 advantage at the break before their resistance crumbled in the second half. In similar fashion, the Scots may well have to be patient tomorrow because they are unlikely to have matters sewn up before half-time.
Peterson is an interesting project for Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend, who has taken in some rough diamonds and polished them into highly attractive gems. Ryan Grant didn’t make his breakthrough until he headed west and you can’t help but wonder how Richie Gray would have turned out had he stayed in Glasgow? It hasn’t done brother Jonny any harm since he had another hugely effective day at the office against Japan, top tackler on either side with 20 to his credit, good numbers for a flanker never mind a 6ft 6in lock. Perhaps Peterson saw Jonny Gray and recognised his own future?
“I know he [Jonny Gray] is a very exceptional player,” says Peterson of the man who starts tomorrow’s match on the bench. “I watched him during the Six Nations and he played very well during that. I know he is very young and a very good player. So I know he’ll be a threat so we’ll take that into account and we’ll do well.”