SAM JOHNSON is out of the ‘moon boot’ he was wearing last week but is not yet back running at training. He does, however, expect to be fit for Scotland’s final two World Cup warm-up matches, against Georgia in Tbilisi on 31st August and then at home against the same opposition on 6th September.
“Adam Hastings tried to kill me!” laughed the Australian-born centre when asked about the injury. The fact that he is joking about it is, in itself, a good sign – signalling the player is pretty relaxed about his situation.
“He stood on my foot, or I stood on his foot, and just rolled it over,” Johnson quickly clarified. “It was in St Andrews [two weeks ago]. The injury is to my ankle ligaments. Adam was pretty apologetic. He was my little servant for a bit after that. I tried to make him feel as guilty as possible.
Of course, it would have been no laughing matter if the injury had cost him an opportunity to play at the World Cup, which kicks off against Ireland in Yokohama on 22nd September, but as it stands the 26-year-old should be back fighting fit by then.
“For the first half an hour I feared the worst, but it didn’t pop or anything like that so I thought it can’t be too bad,” he said. “James Robson is such a good doctor that he got me in for a scan straight away and we got the results soon after. Once we knew where we were at we had a plan, so it was fine.
“It’s one of those things. You don’t really want to think about it, but it is at the back of the mind. It’s part of the sport. You saw guys at the weekend getting injured.
“I’m on the bike at the moment but hopefully I’ll be running later in the week. It’s only been a week and a half since the injury so it’s coming around pretty quick.
Centre of excellence
While Johnson has made a pretty good fist of establishing himself as a key player in the Scotland set-up during his four international appearances so far, he does operate in one of the most competitive positions in the squad so will be keen to get fit again as soon as possible so that he can reinforce his case for selection before the final squad announcement on 3rd September.
With Peter Horne, Duncan Taylor, uncapped Rory Hutchinson, Chris Harris, Huw Jones and even Finn Russell all options in the centre, he can take nothing for granted.
Meanwhile, hooker Fraser Brown also remains confident of getting some game time under his belt before the squad fly off to Japan in mid-September with his recovery from a toe injury sustained during Glasgow Warriors’ Guinness PRO14 Grand Final defeat to Leinster going to plan.
“My aim has always to be involved in the latter part of the games, and I’m still on track for that,” he said. “I might even be a little bit ahead of schedule, but it will all depend on the next couple of weeks and how much running I can get under my belt. I definitely won’t be involved in the next two weeks.
“I got back running last week, just trying to build my engine up a little bit, and all going well I will hopefully progress in the next week or two to more skills stuff, then hopefully into full training after that.
“It has been good for me to be in and around camp the whole, to have that consistency with same medics and the same S&C staff, and to be able to observe the rugby stuff which will hopefully make the transition back to playing smoother.
“The last two or three weeks has been very much more game focussed, and it has been more frustrating. You do want to be a part of it because when you are injured and training on your own, you miss that shared experience of working hard together which pulls you together as a team.”
Brown, if fit, will travel as part of the 31-man squad to Japan as second choice hooker behind Stuart McInally. The fact that he can also play openside flanker – starting in that position as recently as last summer – will provide the squad with a handy extra dimension.
“From a selection point of view, I never really think about it that way,” he said. “I’m a hooker first and foremost, but I’ve always said that they are one and the same for me. When you are a hooker you have the added responsibility an extra little skill-set of having to throw the ball in straight and scrum, but the rest of the time they are effectively the same position.”
- Johnson and Brown were speaking at the launch of Scottish Rugby and Edinburgh Rugby’s new three-year sponsorship deal with Edinburgh-based distiller, John Crabbie & Co. The new arrangement will see Crabbie’s Gin become the Official Gin Partner of Scottish Rugby, while the governing body has also renewed its official partnership affiliation with Crabbie’s Ginger Beer, the UK’s number one selling alcoholic ginger beer.