DAVID BARNES in HAMAMATSU
RUGBY has become a serious business and it is easy to forget that the industry was built on fun times and larger than life personalities. There are, however, still some characters out there who have not been tamed by media managers into relentlessly trotting out the bland corporate newspeak which now dominates press conferences and other interactions with the outside world.
Scotland loose-head prop Gordon Reid fits that bill. He didn’t become a professional player until he was 23, before which he had a varied working life which included spells as a French polisher, a nightclub bouncer and a garden centre assistant, meaning he has a hinterland outside the game which many of his contemporaries can’t draw on, and it shows in his irreverent approach to life.
The proud Ayrshire man has transmitted his sense of humour, and healthy disregard for authority, to the wider public in recent weeks via some entertaining video clips which have been captured on his phone and posted on social media, including an impromptu inspection of tour captain Stuart McInally’s hotel room, teaching the Japanese team liaison officer some ripe Scottish vernacular and interviewing locals using his phone’s translator app.
“Gregor [Townsend] has given me trouble for a few of them, but you don’t get to do this every day so I’m grabbing it with both hands,” he says.
“Not everyone gets to experience these things and come out here. People would give their left leg, their right leg, their left everything, to be over here, to be in the position we are.”
Reid is stepping away from full-time rugby after this World Cup. He will join Ayrshire Bulls – playing in the SRU’s new semi-pro Super6 competition next season – and is clearly determined to make the most of this last taste of the big time.
“I just said I wanted to go and have fun in training, spend time with the boys, have a laugh and enjoy my rugby, so that’s what I’ve done, and I’ve loved it.
“Last year with London Irish, I was going through a bad time, I missed my family [who had moved back home to Ayr] and it just wasn’t good for me. I’ve kinda overcome that now and training with the boys has been fun and has given me a new lease of life. I want it to continue.”
Part of Reid’s schtick is being the wide-eyed laddie from Ayr exploring the big bad world. “The food here is a challenge but it is great trying different things,” he says. “Gregor laughs every time we get to a new restaurant. I tried tapas – I have never tried tapas in my life – that was when we were back in Scotland!
“Over here I have tried sushi. It is not really agreeing with me to be honest, but I am trying it.
“You go into supermarkets and see cooked chickens and other stuff. I saw these … they can only be described as like meatballs … but one of them was purple and one was green. I tried it, and I’m not going to lie, it was actually quite good. But I don’t have a clue what it was, so if any of the Japanese journalist here want to help out?”
He shrugs his shoulders and looks bemused when asked about the possibility that Typhoon Hagibis could disturb this weekend’s World Cup fixture schedule.
“Come on, we’re from Scotland!” he replies. “We’ve had worse weather – rain, hail, everything in one day. It doesn’t matter. It’s fine. We have coped well with a lot more. We are from Glasgow, from Ayrshire. I’m not as posh as some from Edinburgh, but we are from Scotland. Whatever it is, rain or shine, snow, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to go out there and play and give 100 per cent.”
Which brings him back to the rugby, and specifically his preparation for his first start of this tournament against Russia on Wednesday.
“Delly [Dell] has been great, he is growing arms and legs in the scrum – he’s definitely number one choice [at loosehead] – so I have to go out there and prove what I am about.
“We’re really excited about the challenge ahead. Russia are a great team, they offer a lot in the forwards and at line-out, so I have been doing a lot more analysis this time around than any other game.
“Their tighthead is a big strong boy and given an opportunity he can cause a bit of damage, so I need to try to do my best to counter that.
“We are expecting a massive battle. You can see their passion for the game in the way they tackle and the way they carry themselves about the pitch. The thing is, we are proud too, we are proud to be here – so we want to relish that battle.
“Whether it’s the younger boys or older boys in the team, we just want to come together and show that we are passionate about Scotland.”