OLLIE SMITH’S last significant involvement in a Scotland shirt saw him trying to trip up an all-time great in Johnny Sexton, sparking a mass brawl and earning himself a yellow card in the process.
The Glasgow Warriors back can at least smile about it now. That was not how he or any of his team-mates wanted their World Cup to be defined, with Scotland putting up a fight against the Irish only when it was too late.
Failing to make it out of the pool stage was a collective disappointment but Smith draws optimism from the strides he made in his own international career. The sudden retirement of Stuart Hogg created a vacancy at full-back and, while Blair Kinghorn was the man to fill it most of the time, Smith also had a significant role to play.
The youngest member of Gregor Townsend’s squad featured in every match apart from against Tonga and hopes that exposure will stand him in good stead with the Six Nations just around the corner.
“I loved the experience overall,” revealed the 23-year-old. “It’s a weird one because you spend so much time in pre-season getting ready for the World Cup.
“You then go away for a couple of months, so it’s only now that you really have a chance to reflect on the whole experience. It was a good one for me. I was maybe involved in more games than I thought I would be going into the tournament.
“I was involved in all four warm-up games, then only missed the Tonga games in terms of the tournament itself. So I played quite a fair bit. It’s nice to have that trust and respect from the coaches to pick you against teams like South Africa and Ireland.
“It gives you confidence when they back you to go up against some of the best teams in the world. Being involved in the South Africa game was really cool and playing in that stadium in Marseille.
“It’s a special stadium and it was a pretty hostile atmosphere. Playing at the Stade de France as well. I had been a spectator there before, so it was pretty special to actually get out there and play. I’m still fairly young, so to experience that at my first World Cup is something I won’t forget.”
And what about that tangle with Sexton that sparked a change of events that involved Pierre Schoeman at one point launching Dan Sheehan over an advertising board. A sheepish smile from Smith.
“It was a bit of a brain-fart moment from me,” he conceded. “I didn’t even think it was going to be a yellow card if I’m honest. I didn’t really expect it to kick off that much.
“As I was walking away, I just felt someone come behind me and go into Johnny Sexton. I was like: ‘Oh, alright, we’re in this now’.
“It was handbags, really. Then you see Schoeman and one of the Ireland boys go flying over an advertising board. The boys got pretty pumped up. I apologised to Sexton and the ref. It was a stupid playground move from me.”
The Celtic cousins – minus the retired Sexton, of course – will go at it again in the spring but before then there is a domestic rivalry to look ahead to, one given a bit more of a spark this week with the departure of Ali Price from Glasgow to Edinburgh.
Smith was sorry to see his friend move along the M8 but isn’t sure the Warriors support will give the Scotland scrum-half a friendly welcome when he returns next month.
“Scotstoun can be quite hostile at the best of times,” added Smith, speaking ahead of Benetton’s trip to Glasgow this weekend. “When Ali gets the ball or his name is announced, I’m sure you’ll definitely hear the crowd!
“It’s a strange rivalry. We obviously spend so much time together with Scotland. I probably never appreciated it until the game at Murrayfield last season.
“You’re mates with each other, but you do give each other a bit of chat to try and get into each other’s head. There is still that niggle about it and you want to win, but as soon as the game’s over it’s a case of shaking hands and back to being good mates. It’s maybe just mental warfare more than anything.”