AS the only player to have been involved in all 12 matches Scotland have played in the last calendar year, Glasgow Warriors second-row Scott Cummings is now well established as a key man for both club and country, but the 23-year-old says he is no danger of falling into the trap of complacency.
As he points out, Jonny Gray may be gone, but the return of older brother Richie and the re-signing of Leone Nakarawa means that he is going to have to be at or near the top of his game on a weekly basis to be selected for the big matches at Glasgow next season. Meanwhile, at international level, the Gray siblings, Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner and Ben Toolis will all be pushing hard for slots in engine-room.
So, while momentum is on Cummings’ side at the moment, he will continue to strive for further improvements in his games, and to that end, he has looked towards Rob Harley – one of the unsung heroes of the Warriors pack – for inspiration.
“I want to try and get involved a bit more in the game,” he said. “At times I look at myself and think I don’t put myself forward to carry quite as much as I would like, because I feel like when I do carry I am quite effective, so I’d like to promote myself a bit more in that area.
“Also, something I have learned from Rob Harley is being a nuisance in the game – having that ability to cause the other team to get annoyed at you – to get them riled up by slowing ball down at rucks and that sort of thing.
“Ryan Wilson does it a different way. He does it with what he says to people and he is really good at it because he gets the opposition annoyed, whereas Rob is very good at the subtle arts of grabbing people and pulling them back off the ball and all that sort of stuff, which is maybe hard to learn but if you can add it to your game then it really does impact the team.”
With 12 days to go until rugby returns in Scotland when the Warriors take on Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the first of an 1872 Cup double-header, preparations are now in full swing, and Cummings says that competition for places in the Glasgow second-row has helped ensure that standards are high.
“We’ve got a lot of great second-rows at Glasgow,” he said. “I think there are about six of us and everyone is really high quality, pushing each other for positions [Kiran McDonald, Hamish Bain and Harley are also in contention]. We are helping each other as well. There is a big competition for places, but we are all trying to get the best out of each other.
“Richie can share a lot of things that he has brought from his time in France and all the caps he has had for Scotland. We are all working together and I’m sure it will drive us all to get better.
“I think we are all pretty excited to be back to that normality, back to playing rugby because that’s obviously what we all love to do,” he added. “I’m really excited for the games, especially considering they are against Edinburgh.
“Obviously, you have that bit at the back of your mind that you’re playing against guys you are in competition with. I don’t know how it will work with Scotland. I’m not really the one to comment on that, but everyone will be putting their hand up to get selected for that first game against Edinburgh.
The Warriors only really have an outside chance of making the PRO14 play-offs this year and as they are already out of Europe the next big target for Cummings to shoot towards will be the extended international window, which kicks off for Scotland with a home clash against Georgia on October 24th, followed by the long overdue Six Nations denouement against Wales a week later, then there is a rest week leading into the four match Nations Cup competition which will throw up contests against France, Japan (both at home) and Italy (away), plus one other game against an opposition to be confirmed.
“I’ve not really thought about it to be honest – we’ve just been back in at Glasgow and we are so focused on these two games,” insisted Cummings. “We need things to go our way because we still think we can qualify if things happen so we need to go with the mantra that we can still qualify.
“I’m really just looking forward to getting back to playing, whoever that is for.”