ZANDER FAGERSON will be hoping that the old saying about good things coming in threes proves to be true this weekend. After the birth of his daughter last Tuesday, and being selected in the Guinness PR014 ‘Dream Team’ earlier this [Thursday] evening , he can round off an excellent couple of weeks by helping Glasgow Warriors lift the PRO14 trophy by beating Leinster at Celtic Park on Saturday.
The birth of baby Iona was a momentous occasion, but paternity leave was put on hold because there was the small matter of Glasgow Warriors’ Guinness PRO14 semi-final to get played the following Friday night. And, now, having blasted past Ulster in that game, the focus has turned to Saturday’s eagerly anticipated season finale.
Typically, of a man who made his international debut in the most physically demanding position on a rugby field just a few weeks after his 20th birthday, Fagerson has taken it all in his stride. The tight-head prop hasn’t even felt compelled to sneak off to the spare room to get some extra sleep away from the crying newcomer – and he doesn’t plan to either.
“No, not at all,” he states. “She was supposed to come in April when we didn’t have a game, but she came in semi-final week which was brilliant. It has been awesome. I am really enjoying it. Best job in the world.”
Fatherhood might have convinced him that being a rugby player is only the second-best job in the world, but his appetite for the sport is undiminished. And at the end of a season in which he spent so much time frustrated on the sidelines, the 23-year-old won’t struggle for motivation on Saturday.
“I didn’t snap it to be fresh for now, but when I was rehabbing, doing all the extras, pounding away day-in and day-out … it is all worth it when you see the boys are doing such an awesome job on the pitch,” he says. “It means I knew that if I did my job then I could be in a position to play when we get into the Final. It is awesome to be here and I’m proud of the boys.”
Fagerson’s selection in the ‘Dream Team’ is all the more impressive because he spent five months of the campaign out recovering from an ankle injury, which means he has only managed 10 games before this weekend, showing just how influential a figure in the Warriors squad he is.
Glasgow were impressive 24-39 winners when they played Leinster in Dublin six weeks ago, and with Fagerson anchoring the scrum, their set-piece (which has struggled in his absence at times this season) really did impress. But it should be noted that the home team’s front-line front-row started that game on the bench, and there is absolutely no doubt that Saturday’s match will bring a significant step-up in power and intensity.
“When it comes to finals rugby then Leinster are a different animal,” acknowledges Fagerson. “Same as the other Irish provinces, they step it up another level so we can’t read anything into that game. It is a clean slate.
“They have two British and Irish Lions at prop in Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy, plus Sean Cronin is a good dynamic player as well. But Munster did a good job on them at the weekend, so we will do our analysis – see where they are weak, where they’re strong – and take it from there.”
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors have announced that Fagerson’s tight-head understudy Siua Halanukonuka and tyro centre Paddy Kelly have signed two year contract extensions, which will keep them at the club until at least the summer of 2021.
“Siua’s work at the set-piece is excellent and he helps provide a solid platform for us to play the free-flowing game we enjoy,”said Warriors head coach Dave Rennie. “He is an experienced operator who brings real physicality and we’re rapt that he’s committed for another two years.
“Paddy impressed us when he got an opportunity in a Warriors shirt this season and was excellent for Ayr in the Premiership. His diligence and professionalism in helping the team prepare throughout the year has been hugely impressive and he’ll be an important player for us next year with so many international absentees.”