DARRYL Marfo needs no reminding of the fact that in sport you can all too often be on a high one minute only to be brought crashing down to earth the next.
The Edinburgh prop was in the form of his life back in the autumn, making his Scotland debut against Samoa and also winning caps against New Zealand and Australia, before being sidelined by a back problem. Although it was initially seen as a minor matter that would keep him out of action for just a week or two, the issue eventually denied the 27-year-old any game time in the Six Nations.
Now up and running again, having returned to action in Edinburgh’s PRO14 win over Connacht last week, Marfo fully intends to make up for lost time, and is confident that, if called on, he can play for 80 minutes in the Challenge Cup quarter-final against Cardiff on Saturday. “I’d back myself to do it,” he said. “Once you’re out there you’ve got to get on with it.
“It was nice to get a run out against Connacht. Chomping at the bit is the phrase I would use to describe it. There were a few nerves and apprehension before Friday night, my first game back in roughly four months. It was nice to dust the cobwebs off and I now have a foundation to build on. That’s what I want to be doing.
“Any injury, especially a long one, is mentally tough. I had just had the massive high of the autumn, getting to experience international rugby with Scotland, and the plan was to come straight back to the club. I did that after a week off when they were in South Africa, and the plan was to crack on and get straight back into things with Edinburgh.
“I was preparing for the London Irish match that we had in the European competition and it was just unfortunate that my back went during that week. It was meant to be a one-week thing but it turned into two weeks and then a bit longer.
“It was just one of those things. I’ve played rugby for four years without any major issues, but this time I had one and it’s just part and parcel of the game. A hazard of the job if you like.
“The toughest part was the beginning, with the unknown. But once we found out what the problem was we could address it properly with more clarity. But it was quite a tough period.”
The blow was softened somewhat by Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and assistant coach Dan McFarland, who reassured Marfo at the start of January that he would definitely be in their plans once he regained fitness. “It was nice. When I came in I bumped into the two of them when Edinburgh played the Southern Kings.
“They were just asking how the back was getting on and they said how disappointing it was to have the injury strike when it did. They said they were happy with what I had done in the autumn and they were looking forward to working with me again in the future.”
Stuck in the stands
In the end, there was no need for surgery, and Marfo was fit enough to rejoin the wider Scotland squad for the last couple of weeks of the Six Nations. By that time, however, he had suffered the frustration of being at Murrayfield to watch the victories over France and England, and knowing that had circumstances been different he might well have been out there playing his part.
“I was sat up in the rafters – I wasn’t given access to the Royal Box,” he joked. “It was a bit of a tough one. The squad gets named and you know you’re not going to be in it, but when you see it in black and white and your name isn’t there it does hit home a little bit more.
“I tried to enjoy it – because I’m playing rugby most weekends, I don’t actually get to enjoy the whole experience that a regular fan does. Secondly, I wanted to use it as a bit of motivation. I was looking down on the pitch and there were about 12 other guys I’d been playing with just a few months earlier, beating France and England.
“I had previously been part of that group. It was good motivation to see it in the flesh to spur me on to try and get back there.”
Scotland’s summer tour to the Americas will surely offer Marfo a belated chance to add to those three caps, but right now he is not thinking any further forward than Saturday. “The next target for me is Cardiff this weekend. I’ve got to be doing everything I can to try to get into that.”