WHEN Matt Fagerson reaches the end of his professional playing career – which should be a good decade from now, at least – he will be able to look back with satisfaction at just how well he managed to transition from schoolboy prodigy to key Glasgow Warriors player and full Scotland cap. But the 20-year-old back-row forward is in no mood at the moment to rest on his laurels. On the contrary, he is frustrated that his career has not accelerated more quickly, with a bit of inexperience and even more bad luck conspiring against him accumulating a bigger cap haul than the three he has at the moment.
“I feel like every time I get an opportunity something happens and I’m back to square one,” he lamented. “I didn’t have the greatest [international] debut away in the USA [last summer], then I get an opportunity against Fiji and I’m off after 20 minutes [with a dead leg that brought an end to his November involvement].
“It has been awesome with Glasgow this year, playing against teams like Saracens and getting such good results in Europe, but it has been pretty frustrating on another level. Coming into the Six Nations and being laid off for six weeks is not ideal.”
That most recent setback was a shoulder issue which he picked up after only six minutes of Warriors’ victory over Cardiff Blues in the Champions Cup in mid-January, and even more frustrating was that it was the sort of injury which did not have a set recovery time frame.
“It could have been 12 weeks, it could have been four,” he said. “I just caught my shoulder wrong and it was sort of hanging out and I couldn’t really feel my fingers. They said it was neurapraxia with the nerves in the shoulder, so I just had to wait until they switched back on, and then just rebuild my strength.
“It ended up being six weeks in total until last weekend. I could feel it gradually coming back. Probably in the first week and a half the feeling came back, and then it was just a bit numb on the top. So, it has mainly been about rehab and physio.”
Rehab is tough going for players at the best of times, but as a young and ambitious player, with only a vague prognosis to work with, it must have been torture – especially as he watched back-row rivals for the Scotland shirt dropping like flies during the lead up to the start of the Six Nations.
“The physios were pretty good at telling me what was happening,” said Fagerson. “I’ve never really had a shoulder injury as such. I’ve had stingers before but when my fingers started tingling I knew something wasn’t right.”
Fagerson might be frustrated but he is not fatalist, and he has taken the view that his November and Six Nations setbacks can be a blessing in disguise, with a view to helping his club side push for success on two fronts – Europe and PRO14 – during the final quadrant of this season.
“It is easy for people to burn out, especially if they are heavily relied upon like Adam Ashe and Rob Harley – spending all week with Scotland and then coming back and putting in 80-minute performance in every week for Glasgow – it can take its toll on the body. So, I looked at it as a good chance to take a break, I had a few problems with my knees so I was able to give them a rest, and I feel good now coming back into it.”
He made his comeback off the bench for the final 20 minutes of last Friday night’s victory over Connacht and is hopeful of having a more central involvement against Zebre away this weekend. Who knows? He may even be able to push his way into the Scotland set-up during the tail-end of the Six Nations.
“Ashy and the other boys in the [Warriors] team have been playing really well so it is difficult to come back in and stake a claim straight off, but fingers crossed,” he concluded. “I just hope to play really well against Zebre and if anything comes off the back of that [with Scotland] then happy days. But my focus is on trying to get back into Glasgow and playing well again.”