DAVE CHERRY can remember precisely where he was when his dream of playing for Scotland at this year’s Rugby World Cup began – in Nice, the venue for the forthcoming pool game against Tonga, on the day in 2017 that France was announced as the host nation.
And he will never forget exactly where he was when, just a few days ago, that dream was realised and he was told he was in Gregor Townsend’s final squad of 33 for the tournament. The news was broken by a phone call from the head coach himself, and came when Cherry was in a National Childbirth Trust ante-natal class with his partner, Olivia, who is due to give birth at the end of next month.
“I was certainly quite anxious on the day,” the Edinburgh hooker explained at Wednesday’s official squad announcement in South Queensferry. “Gregor gave us absolutely no indication beforehand – we were completely in the dark.
“I was golfing with [Edinburgh and Scotland team-mate] Sam Skinner in the morning and we were both looking at our phones, really anxious. Then thankfully I did end up getting the right call and I was delighted.
“I was actually in an NCT class at the time. They were talking about pain medication, I think. They were in the third hour of it, so I think I had switched off a bit!
“I saw a call coming in from Gregor and was like, ‘Oh no’, because I didn’t know either way – the hooker position was pretty competitive.
“So I snuck out of the class, spoke to Gregor and obviously it was good news. I came back in with a smile on my face and got a hug from my partner, which is nice.
“This is our first child, a baby girl. It’s a busy period in my life. My partner is due at the end of September, so the timing is not great!
“It depends how Scotland do whether she’ll come out. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Although he was capped at under-20 level, Cherry, now 32, was a late developer as an international-class hooker. It was only really after he had been with Edinburgh for a couple of years after signing in 2018 that he forced his way into contention for a spot in Townsend’s team, eventually making his debut in 2021.
But while his rise has been slow and steady rather than spectacular, there is little doubt that being in the right place at the right time back in 2017 was the spark that ignited the whole process. That year he had ended a three-year stint with London Scottish to sign for Stade Nicois, and it was during his first few months with that club that France was announced as the host nation for this year’s event. He did not know then, of course, that Scotland would be drawn to play there in the pool, but he was aware that Nice would be one of the venues, and that was enough to get him musing about the future.
“I’ve been thinking about it since I was in Nice,” he said. “I thought: ‘The World Cup will be happening here and it would be pretty cool to come back here and play’.
“That’s when I first thought about it, and obviously I’ve started to progress more and more and it became a more realistic goal. Finally we’re here and I’m going back to Nice, so I’m over the moon.
“It’s a lovely part of the world and plenty to explore. I’ve told the boys a few places to go and get food.”
Cherry was one of four hookers competing for three places in the squad, along with his Edinburgh team-mates Ewan Ashman and Stuart ‘Rambo’ McInally, and Glasgow’s George Turner. In the end, McInally – who captained Scotland at the last World Cup and had already said he would retire after this one – was the man to miss out.
“I feel for Rambo,” Cherry said. “It would be a horrible thing to get the call saying you’re not in. He’s a great bloke and I’ll see him at the weekend. I’m sure he’ll be delighted for us even though he’s not in, because that’s the kind of guy he is.”
According to Townsend, Cherry’s consistency was a key factor in the decision to select him, with an impressive showing in this month’s home friendly against France – when he came off the bench and scored the winning try – being especially timely.
“I think there was a bit of pressure on me in that game. I thought it could be my only opportunity to really stick my hand up. You’re obviously reliant on a lot of people in a game of rugby to help things go well and your way, and luckily it did.
“Consistency is more my game. I might not do the Duhan van der Merwe 80-metre tries, but I’ve backed myself and tried to put my hand up as a consistent player that can deliver in pressure situations. It puts pressure on me to be able to deliver, but what a stage to do it on.”