On the 21st of November 2009 Scotland recorded a magnificent result. A win against Australia thought to be nigh on impossible in the days leading up to the fixture. It was some day. Yet while this day was special for everyone lucky enough to see such a spectacle it held extra significance for one young man.
This unbelievable result against one of world rugby’s powerhouses is seen by Richie Vernon as the defining moment, so far, in an already impressive career. After a quiet few seasons with the Warriors the former Border Reivers man exploded onto the International scene in late 2008. After gaining some well deserved game time in the Glasgow team Richie played well enough to earn an A cap against Georgia. This match saw the tearaway back-rower score 2 tries. He had certainly caught some eyes.
Seven months later Richie had cemented his place in the A team and played under Andy Robinson in the IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest. This was the moment where the rugby community started to talk about Richard Vernon. Before this point people always spoke of the rangy breakaway forward as being a 7s specialist with great skills but that he was untested at 15s. Cue a lung-busting performance against France in the final of that event and a tournament winning try. Cue adulation. Cue hopes for the future.
Along with everyone else on the planet Andy Robinson saw something in him and when he became the big boss man at Murrayfield he had no qualms with handing Richie his first full cap against Fiji. Richie hasn’t looked back since, and despite breaks with illness and injury he is on song to add to his burgeoning reputation and maybe help bring some much needed success back to our national side.
A.D. caught up with him earlier in the week;
Hi, Richie, Fully recovered from your Glandular Fever?
In terms of health wise, yes, but getting back after doing nothing for 6 weeks means I’m not quite in the shape I was when I left. I’m glad to be back in training now and I’m sure all that will come back gradually in the next couple of weeks.
Apart from that, how do you feel your season has gone so far?
Very well. On a personal level to have played regularly for Glasgow, which is not easy here, and to have gained my first 3 caps is more than I could have hoped for at the start of the year, not to mention a win against Australia which is something rarely experienced by Scotland. I was proud to be involved. I had a good Nations Cup and I think that really gave me the confidence to kick on. For Glasgow to be challenging at the top of the league for a play-off place is also brilliant for the club and we’re very excited about the prospect of being involved in the end of season shake up.
With so much competition in the Glasgow back-row do you think it has pulled you forward as a player?
Definitely. In my first 2 years here I played very little and that was very frustrating at the time but I realised I would have to improve to get a regular place in the team. I think I’ve really improved over that time and that’s been very important. The 2 Johns and Kelly are all very good players and all very different and I’ve picked up a lot from all 3. That is not to say that when I first joined I wouldn’t have minded playing a few more games but any young player has to be patient for their chance.
Have you ever been tempted to put laxatives in Johnnie’s (Beattie) breakfast?
Never laxatives, although that’s not a bad idea! I put sardines in his special K once but it was after a night out and I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean any harm by it. We’re mates and try to leave rugby when we finish for the day but we can be very competitive.
After winning your first Scotland cap, do you remember anything special, or was it all a blur?
I really enjoyed the whole experience. Getting a letter from the captain the night before, getting looked after so well by all the staff, the pipe band leading us into to Murrayfield and most of all the nerves and the fear that I wouldn’t get on. I remember getting on and I couldn’t stop smiling. I was determined to enjoy it.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
Personally, just staying fit and healthy and playing as well as possible for Glasgow whenever I get a chance. With a pretty tough end of season schedule it’s hard to see past Glasgow games as we don’t want to give up the position we’re in. I’ve found that if you get your club form right, everything else will follow on from there.
Away from rugby, what is your Nickname?
I’ve had a few, RV, Verno, Ricky V, inferno, and Skeletor.
What is your drink of choice?
Dr Pepper or root beer.
What is your normal match prep. the night before a game?
If it’s a night game I like to stay up till about 12 and then have a lie in so I am not too tired nearer to the game. Nowadays we kind of have a good idea of when and how much to eat so it is important that you get that right. On the morning of a night game I usually hit the driving range with Budgie, Pete Horne and Johnnie Beattie which I find quite relaxing and stretches out the back a bit.
What’s a perfect Saturday night for you?
Some Call of Duty in the early evening, followed by some steak for dinner and then meeting up with some friends for a drink later on.
What is your ‘Dream Job’?
Lifeguard on a Miami Beach.
If you could be a kingpin in any other sport, who would it be?
I would have said Tiger Woods but with recent revelations it has got to be Roger Federer who’s a true legend.
Which 3 people, dead or alive, would you love to go for a pint with?
Nelson Mandela, Paul Gascoigne and George Best.
Scarlett Johansson or Beyonce Knowles?
Beyonce; but Mollie from the Saturdays is my favourite at the moment
And finally…Sex the night before a game; “Yes, please!” or ” F*** off! Never!”?
In my time in rugby I’d say 90 percent of players are dead against it. I see the logic in both sides of this argument so no comment…!
Richie is in the squad to play Connacht this Friday and will be hoping to figure heavily in any league action right up to the brand-spanking new/terrifying play-offs. If all goes to plan you could see this ebullient young back-rower representing Scotland in the World Cup in New Zealand.