ZANDER FAGERSON jokes that he played his own special role in helping Scotland to retain the Calcutta Cup for the first time in 35 years last weekend. “I gave them the energy in the warm-up,” quips the tight-head prop, who was 24th man at Twickenham on Saturday and is, of course, acutely aware that nobody in their right mind would try to take any credit for the diabolical way the team started that match.
If watching the game on the box was unbearable for the armchair supporters, then imagine being the guy who travelled down to London with the squad, ate breakfast with the squad, put the kit on and went through the pre-match run-through with the squad, and then had disappear off to the stand to watch helplessly with the rest of us as the drama unfolded. It must have been torture, especially as he is a player who would expect to be involved in the match were it not for the lack of game time he has had since breaking his ankle last September.
Fagerson managed to get himself back from injury ahead of that ankle injury ahead of schedule to play 50-minutes for Glasgow Warriors against Cardiff Blues on 16th February, before being parachuted straight back into the Scotland squad to face France the following week. He came off the bench for the final 16-minutes of that match, as one of a raft of late replacements who added real impetus to the team’s performance after a stuttering first hour.
However, when WP Nel recovered from the calf injury he picked up against Italy in round one, it was Fagerson who dropped out of the squad for the final two rounds of matches against Wales in England.
The 23-year-old admits that he was frustrated but says he can understand why he missed out and believes that the prospect of becoming a father in the next few weeks has led him to become more philosophical about the trials and tribulations of being a professional sportsman.
“I am loving being back playing, I’ve not enjoyed a game of rugby for a long time like I did that Cardiff game, I was just buzzing to be back,” he said. “Then I got an opportunity against France and did alright, but I knew I needed game time and so I’ve just focussed on that. I’m three games in now – it is frustrating – but it is what it is.
“I was pretty down when I first got injured but I’ve got bigger things to think about now,” he added. “I’m having a kid soon which puts things into perspective. That life balance is going to be really good for me, I think.”
“It was tough when I first got injured,” he acknowledged. “My wife was suffering from morning sickness and not feeling great, and I was on crutches or in my mobility scooter, so I could get the groceries but I couldn’t really do much else. We’ve got two little dogs who were going nuts as well. So, we had some tough days, but it [having a kid] puts everything perspective. I’m not just playing for me anymore. Rugby is my job and I absolutely love it to bits, but it’s not the be-all and end-all, life goes on.”
This new stoical approach shouldn’t be mistaken for a drop-off in the drive which helped Fagerson establish himself as a key man for both club in country in the most physically demanding position on the park before he had celebrated his 21st birthday. On the contrary, he says he is more motivated than ever as he looks to play a central role for Warriors as they look to finish the season in style.
“Getting my head away from rugby has made me really want to come back,” he explained. “The ankle has been sweet, it took a bit of time to come around but it seems to have – touch wood – settled down now. So, I feel great.
“I’ve worked hard around conditioning and my upper body is stronger than it has been for a long time, since being in the academy.
“I’m fresh to death. I feel like I’m 12 again running around out there at training. All the boys are looking at me saying: What’s going on? It’s a busy business end of the season. There are some big games coming up and hopefully I’ll be involved in as many as possible.”
Warriors return to action in the PRO14 after a three-week hiatus with a home tie against Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday night, but the big match looming over the horizon is away to Saracens in the Champions Cup seven days later.
Fagerson was speaking on the same day as fellow props D’Arcy Rae and Alex Allan put pen to paper on two-year contract extensions which will keep them with Glasgow until at least the summer of 2021.