A SWITCH to full-back at the start of last season kick-started a career which was in serious danger of stalling, but Ruaridh Jackson hasn’t forgotten his roots as a stand-off and it his ability to operate in both positions which could hold the key to the 30-year-old being one of the 31 players on the plane to the World Cup in Japan next September.
Jackson earned 26 of his first 30 caps at stand-off, but the emergence of Finn Russell as a world class gamebreaker, and Peter Horne as reliable and versatile back-up, meant that it looked from the outside like his international career was in danger of fizzling out, with appearances in the dark blue jersey becoming fewer and further between during the three years he spent playing club rugby in the English Premiership between 2014 and 2017.
Gregor Townsend had other ideas, however, and after taking over as national team head coach at the end of the 2016-17 season, he promptly selected Jackson for that summer’s tour and even gave him a run-out at full-back against Fiji.
Then a surprise move from Harlequins back to Glasgow Warriors – the club where he had started out in his pro career – catapulted the Aberdonian right back into the mix, with his performances at full-back in place of the injured Stuart Hogg during a rampant start to last season demonstrating that Jackson is a far more accomplished all-round player than many have given him credit for in the past.
Jackson not only played every minute of the team’s first seven games, he was a stand-out performer – although the player himself never lost sight of the fact that he was filling the jersey until Hogg’s return.
He duly picked up another international appearance at full-back off the bench against Australia last November, but then it was back at stand-off that he earned his 33rd – and most recent – cap this summer, starting in the ten slot in the opening match of the tour against Canada.
“It was huge. It was nice to be back in the 10 jersey and getting a good bit of game time,” he says, before characteristically playing down his chances of playing more regularly for club and country at first receiver.
“I would have loved another shot, but it wasn’t to be because Adam [Hastings] got a couple of games there. That will be a big boost to his confidence going into this season.
“I’ll be happy if I’m on the pitch, if it’s at 10 or full-back. Last year I wasn’t expecting to play as much at full-back, but I really enjoyed it. It ended up as a pretty successful season for me with plenty of game time. So, I’m more likely to be predominantly at full-back but I’ll hopefully get a few shots at 10 as well. I feel pretty comfortable there and I’d like to put my name in the hat for that.
“I definitely see myself as a 10/15, which is good in a way because it gives them options. It’s nice that has not been completely forgotten in the first 10 years of my career weren’t a complete waste.”
Jackson is on the bench tomorrow afternoon when Warriors take on his old club Harlequins in a pre-season friendly in Perth (with Rory Hughes making his comeback at full-back after managing just two games last season due to injury), but he will be keen to make an impact when he gets a chance to stretch his legs during the second half.