MAGNUS BRADBURY is one of the men in possession in the battle to populate the Scotland back-row at the World Cup in Japan in just over two months’ time, having returned from a dislocated shoulder to play the full 80-minutes against France, Wales and England in Scotland’s final three matches of last season’s Six Nations.
He even romped home from 25-yards in the last of those games as Scotland somehow battled back from 31-7 down to snatch an improbable draw against the red-rose brigade.
However, with John Barclay, Ryan Wilson, Blade Thomson, Matt Fagerson and Sam Skinner all fit and raring to go after missing some or all of the Six Nations through injury, he is taking nothing for granted. Hamish Watson is a dead cert to tour if fit, while Josh Strauss and Gary Graham are also in contention. All of which means that with head coach Gregor Townsend expected to select five dedicated back-rows, plus a ‘hybrid’ second-row/blind-side flanker in Skinner, there is going to be some heartbreak when the final 31-man squad is announced.
“It is going to be one of the positions where a lot of quality players will miss out,” acknowledged Bradbury yesterday [Tuesday] morning. “It is early days yet but I think it is already at the back of everyone’s head that the guys you are training alongside, who you are helping through the tough sessions, the guys you are sharing a room with and having fun with, are the same guys who are after the same place in the squad you are after.”
Bradbury was speaking at a press call held in the Scotland team changing room at Murrayfield yesterday morning, where it was announced that Scottish Rugby and Italian kit supplier Macron have extended their long-standing association with a seven-figure partnership deal which will run through until 2026. The new strip for the World Cup will be unveiled on Friday.
At just under 6ft 4ins and just over 18 stone, Bradbury is an imposing presence, and when he builds up a head of steam with the ball in hand, he takes some stopping, as he demonstrated with that try against England.
He knows what his strengths are and the challenge for this summer is to demonstrate that he can take the game to the opposition more often over an 80 minute period. Having rushed back from injury during the Six Nations, he admits to struggling for match fitness, but believes he is now well on the way to finding his very best form.
Dare to dream
“I feel like I put in the hard work coming back from [that shoulder] injury, so it is about keeping that moving forward,” he explains. “Gregor wants me to be more physical and work on my consistency as well – so that comes from the fitness and being able to do what I do for the full 80 minutes instead of for 50 or 60 minutes and then dropping off.
“You have your match fitness and it’s very hard to replicate that in training. The only way you get match-fit is by playing games, so hopefully I get a run of warm-up games.
“I’ll play wherever Gregor picks me. Whether that’s at No 8 or No 6, there are obviously some similarities between the two positions. At No 8, you’re more of a linking player between the backs and the forwards. But I’ll play wherever I’m told to play, in all honesty.
“You dare to dream. It is the pinnacle in rugby. First of all, you dream of playing for Scotland, then if you are lucky enough to be in the mix when a World Cup is coming up then you want to do everything in your power to be involved. I’m just focussed on working as hard as I can and putting my best foot forward for selection. Gregor is going to pick on form.”