AFTER a 2015 World Cup campaign which was over almost as soon as it started, due to a tournament ending groin injury sustained in the second game against the USA, Grant Gilchrist has more reason than most to look forward to this year’s jamboree in Japan with real relish.
And as Scotland’s first warm-up match – against France in Nice next Saturday – looms over the horizon, the 29-year-old Edinburgh second-row says he is chomping at the bit to get some real rugby under the belt against genuine opposition after nearly two months of friendly fire.
“I’ve said before that I don’t tend to look on it too much as a negative, but obviously it was a disappointment at the time,” explained Gilchrist. “It was still a big highlight getting to go and play in the first two games [in 2015] when I look back on it, despite the obvious disappointments.
“I would really love to get back there and get more of my game out there at a World Cup rather than a game and a half.”
Although he won’t say so himself, the only reason Gilchrist won’t travel to Japan would be because of injury, such has been his form during the last year and a half. Jonny Gray and Ben Toolis are the other stick-ons in the second-row, with Sam Skinner as a hybrid lock/blindside flanker. Uncapped Scott Cummings is an outside bet if head coach Gregor Townsend chooses to go with four out-and-out second-rows.
But that doesn’t mean he will be taking it easy during the next month as the squad build towards their campaign opener against Ireland in Yokohama on 22nd September.
“I really want to play,” he said. “Boys are just itching to get out there. We’ve done a lot of prep and you can see all the parts of our game starting to come together. We want to get out there and see how our systems are.”
“I knew I was in good shape when I was coming in at the start [of the camp] on the back of what was a pretty good season for me personally. To make more improvements and put my foot forward for selection is all I’m thinking about at this stage.”
Having missed the 2016 summer tour to Japan, Gilchrist is enthused by the prospect of a new experience. “A catering company came in and cooked some Japanese food. And told us about the
eating culture,” he explained.
“It’s been more focused on how we are going to deal with the actual heat and humidity than too much of the cultural stuff.
“But yes, I like sushi. It may be unusual for a boy from Alloa, but I’ll try anything.
“There’s not many foods I won’t eat!”