The 6 Nations are intense.
In a short period of time you have to play the very best the Northern Hemisphere has to offer in the gruelling arena of test match rugby. Training is physical. Matches are punishing. The coaches’ demands are unrelenting. So perhaps it is strange that, on a day of sightseeing in a windy Stirling, young pretender to Dan Parks’ throne Ruaridh Jackson laughs about the seriousness.
“Training is tough but, at the right times. Sometimes you need a break.”
“The mood in the camp is good. Everything is intense, but there is a lot of focus on organisation. Everything has a mental side and we need to gel as units.” This doesn’t mean it is plain sailing, though. “Robbo [Andy Robinson] does still love some bosh…”
Jackson, despite his 2 caps, is still relatively new to the Test environment. He has been helped to fit in by his teammates and the atmosphere has not been too tense. According to him Dan Parks’ loud voice and sense of humour ensures that. “Parksy is loud enough to break any silence and Euan Murray is kinda weird but very, very funny. Between them they have put the squad at ease.”
Camaraderie is key with such a short turn around and the inexperienced fly-half knows there must be harmony within a squad. That is probably why he refused to tell tales about any of his teammates. “No, I don’t think I’ll stitch anyone up quite yet. Although I am pretty confident about my scheduled eating contest with Alex Grove…”
There is, however, the looming Test match with France. Jackson acknowledges that training will get tougher and more specific nearer to kick-off and he is under no illusions that something big is on the horizon. On Wednesday he played for a Scotland training team against a mix of pros and amateurs to test out some combinations and try to learn the play of those around them. “It was weird lining up against the guys you play and train with every week for the Warriors. It didn’t stop me from trying a few offloads, though!”
Indeed, for him, the camp is far removed from that in Glasgow. It would have to be. Despite favourable results in the last 3 Heineken Cup games, Glasgow are still out of the competition and languishing in the bottom 3 of the Magners League. France represent a step up to the brutality and majesty of international rugby. Yet the 22 year old is a confident young man and has experienced partisan French crowds before, in Toulouse.
“If selected this would be my biggest challenge and my first trip away with Scotland. I have no fears of the French, though. Yeah they have great players and yeah, like Toulouse, they can cut loose, but I wouldn’t approach them any differently.”
Despite our nation’s limited resources at stand-off Andy Robinson clearly sees something in Jackson and fans caught a glimpse of this when he confidently slotted the winning kick from wide out against Samoa in the Autumn Internationals. The nerves he showed there may be tested again in the 6 Nations.
Glasgow’s first choice 10 is under no illusions about this. He knows that he has to perform and do so at a higher level than ever before. He won’t be changing his ways, though. “I’ve been selected for Scotland for a reason and I just hope I can bring the best parts of my game for Scotland. Robbo hasn’t tried to change the way I play so hopefully I can perform in France.”
Unchanged and unfaltering, let’s hope Ruaridh Jackson heralds a new generation of winning Scots.