HAD things turned out differently, Kyle Rowe could have been preparing to face Ireland in a World Cup showdown this weekend rather than Ulster in a pre-season friendly.
There is no bitterness, however, on the part of the 25-year-old about that. The dream scenario of his first ever Scotland cap away to Argentina in the second Test last July quickly unfolded into a nightmare when he sustained an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury that not only curtailed his tour but also sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
It will forever remain in the realms of the hypothetical whether a fit Rowe could have cemented his place in Gregor Townsend’s plans over the subsequent 12 months to make the World Cup squad.
Instead, the winger finds himself effectively starting all over again in his quest for regular international rugby. The financial downfall of London Irish left him looking for another club and it was Glasgow Warriors – with whom he had been a fringe contender four years earlier – who brought him back north with the offer of a two-year deal.
Fit again and looking sharp, Rowe enjoyed his first proper contest since that fateful night in Salta 16 months ago on Saturday, running in two tries as Warriors defeated Zebre in their first pre-season hit-out.
It is still early days but already Rowe has his long-term sights trained on returning to the Scotland squad at the earliest opportunity.
“It was great to get out there for my first appearance,” he said. “The weather held up for us and we managed to play some good rugby. It was my first proper game back since doing my knee last summer so it was great to get that first hit-out again and get the win for the fans.
“I was quite sore after the game but generally my knee and body are all fine and I’m just ready to rip into it again next week [against Ulster] and then into the competitive action.
“On a personal basis my goal this season is just to play as much as I can to help the team out. And as a squad we ultimately want to win both competitions [the United Rugby Championship and the Champions Cup]. We want to win as much as we can.
“Scotland is in my thoughts, too. I want to be part of that Six Nations squad and aim to break through into the team. And then just go from there.”
Not all of his former London Irish team-mates have been as fortunate in finding fresh employment and Rowe remains grateful that Glasgow rushed to his rescue.
“I’m one of the lucky ones that was able to get a club,” he added. “I knew a few of the boys don’t have that luxury yet.
“I count myself fortunate that a club like Glasgow wanted me and now I want to repay them for showing that faith in me. It’s been great settling in at the club. I grew up with quite a lot of these boys before I went down to London Irish.
“And I know quite a few others from the Scotland camp as well. It’s been a seamless transition coming back.”
His two scores lit up the first half against Zebre but he was reluctant to make too much of them.
“I just managed to get the easy ones. Right place, right time! All the hard work was done for me. All I had to do was get the ball down.”
Instead, he saved his most valuable contribution for helping the group of former academy kids and Super Series prospects handed a rare outing at Scotstoun.
“I just tried to impart a bit of wisdom onto them,” he explained. “There were a few boys there who haven’t played pro rugby yet but this was a great test for them. It showed the intensity you need to bring to get a win and they managed to hang on in there.
“You can see they’ve all got something about them so it’s just about building on that week on week. When they go back to their Super Series clubs they just have to try to keep that intensity and they’ll get another shot.”