Ruaridh Jackson relishing his return to a less soggy Scotstoun

Ruaridh Jackson training at Scotstoun. Image: © Craig Watson

GLASGOW Warriors have come so far in such a relatively short period that it is sometimes easy to forget just how lowly an outfit they were at one time. For the younger members of the squad, those years in the wilderness are not even a memory, because they were simply not around then, but if they want a history lesson, there is no better team-mate to turn to than Ruaridh Jackson.

Still only 29, the full-back ended his first spell as a Warrior back in 2014, when they had long since embarked on the unrelenting ascent that culminated in the following year’s PRO12 title triumph. But he had been with the team long enough to remember the times when they had no permanent base of their own, and as a consequence had nothing like the strong identity they enjoy these days.

Having rejoined in the summer from Harlequins and made his second competitive debut in last week’s win over Connacht, Jackson is expected to be named at full-back again this Saturday when the Warriors take on Ospreys at Scotstoun before a near-capacity crowd. His last couple of years with the team were spent at their current ground, albeit on a far inferior pitch to the new artificial surface, but before then he played at Firhill and trained for some of the time further out of town at Whitecraigs.

“My first year was 2006-07 season and [there were] a couple of years at Whitecraigs, maybe three years,” he said. “The change has been really positive: before we were dotting about here, there and everywhere, so to have everything in this set-up now is great to see. Everyone’s seen the growth of the squad and the team, and the facilities have been a big thing in that.

“The pitch is a huge bonus. During my last year here we had a couple of rained-off games and it could get pretty soggy. It wasn’t the nicest pitch to play on, but now no matter what the weather we’ll have a good fast track.”

The last game of Jackson’s first spell as a Warrior was the home win over Munster in the 2014 semi-final, so it was particularly pleasing for him to maintain the winning streak with that 18-12 victory in Galway last Saturday night. The conditions this time are sure to be better, but Jackson does not exactly expect the opponents to be any easier.

“They’re always a tough team,” he said of the Ospreys, who laboured to a 22-13 home win over Zebre first time out. “They’ve got a few good recruits. James Hook is back at 10 and it’ll be interesting to see if he stays there or Sam Davies plays there. They’ve got some good backs, a physical pack and a strong defensive line.

“I guess they weren’t delighted with their performance at the weekend. They’d have liked to put a few more points on Zebre – no disrespect to them, but they’re aiming to be a top-four side and we know their ambition. We’re home and we have ambition as well, so we have to make a statement this weekend.”

Glasgow made a statement last weekend, all right, not only by winning in poor conditions at one of the toughest venues in the PRO14, but also by displaying their ability to adapt to injuries. With first Sam Johnson and then Adam Hastings going off injured, the back line had to be reshuffled, with Jackson moving up from full-back.

Versatility can be a double-edged sword, as he and the likes of team-mate Peter Horne know only too well, but such players can be precious assets when the injuries start mounting up.  

“Normally you expect at the start of the season some free-flowing rugby, burning lungs, but it was just trying to keep warm when you’re out at full-back,” he said, looking back at that win over Connacht. “We showed some really good character from a very young team. It’s a tough place to go at the best of times, but in those conditions it was a real battle. To turn around a 9-3 deficit at half-time and come out on top was great credit to the boys.

“There were a few changes in the back line, but it just shows how we can change and we’ve got a few guys who can play a few different positions. It didn’t really put us out of synch for the last 15 minutes. I don’t think I’d had to make a tackle until the last spell when I moved up into the front line. I’d been quite enjoying that!

“It’s a great string to have to your bow,” he continued, referring to that positional switch. “It shows the versatility of the squad, and that’s a great thing to have. When we get situations like that we should be able to adapt and keep going in the right direction.

“The physicality of games now, it means there’s going to be injuries and switching around – you can’t always plan for that. It’s something you don’t necessarily train for, but there are occasions when there’s guys out with injuries, and you have to jump in at centre or the wing. You think at the time ‘What am I doing?’, but later on it can stand you in good stead if the situation does arise on the field.”

About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.