THERE is never a good time to get an injury, but the one that hit Lewis Carmichael in the summer of 2018 came at a particularly bad moment. The Edinburgh lock had just enjoyed a breakthrough season, one which culminated in his scoring on his Scotland debut against Canada. He was looking forward to kicking on in 2018-19, only for an ACL rupture to rule him out of action for the entire campaign.
The road to recovery was a long one, but now he is back. Perhaps he has yet to rediscover that absolute top form that saw him capped by Gregor Townsend, but the progress is clear nonetheless.
“It was obviously devastating, missing a full season of rugby,” Carmichael, now 24, said earlier this week. “It was hard. But the knee feels all good now and I’m just happy to be just trying to play catch-up on that season that I missed, to be fair. So yeah, it’s obviously not ideal, being out for a year, but I’m glad I’m back now, fully fit.
“Obviously, not playing a lot of rugby last year, I’m loving starting and loving my time on the field at the moment. You want to be playing as much as you can, so I’ve got to take it when I can sort of thing.
“I would have loved to have played in every game this season, but that just doesn’t happen when you’ve got two guys like Gilco and Tooly [Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis] playing some of their best rugby this season. I’m just wanting to play every week, and doing everything I can in training to play every week.”
Carmichael may lack the experience and consistency of those two senior team-mates, but he is more versatile too. His mobility and enterprise in the loose mean he can play at blindside as well as at lock, even if his own preference is for the second not the back row. “I’ve not played a lot at six,” he continued. “I’ve obviously played a lot of my rugby in the second-row, but I like to think that, if need be, I can slot into that six role. It’s easy enough set-piece wise.
“But yeah, it is something I’ve done before – I’m pretty sure I started the first game of the season at six. But for me, I’m happy to be on the pitch, either/or kind of thing. So if Cockers puts me there, then it doesn’t really matter to me to be honest.”
Carmichael has made six starts for Edinburgh this season, and a seventh start is likely to follow in the Challenge Cup match away to Bordeaux on Saturday. In terms of sheer physicality, it is a contest that looks likely to be Edinburgh’s biggest challenge of the season so far. “They’re a very big, physical team and we need to match their physicality, as a forward pack especially,” he added. “I think if we do that, away from home, then it’s anyone’s game.
“So as a forward pack, we need to meet fire with fire. And especially away from home, it’s a big task against these big French boys. So it’s exciting.”