Matt Fagerson’s accelerated elevation to senior international has cost him the chance of taking part in a second under-20 World Championship this summer, but the Glasgow Warriors flanker is backing his former team-mates to thrive in his absence.
The teenager was part of the most successful Scotland under-20 side in history when they finished fifth at last year’s tournament in Georgia and would have been a senior figure in the squad this time around, but has instead been called on to the Scotland tour of the Americas that will see a relatively inexperienced squad face Tests against Canada, the USA and Argentina next month.
Having established himself in the Warriors squad, however, Fagerson was also missing when the current under-20s registered a surprise win over England during their Six Nations Championship this year and he believes they will be even stronger than they were then as they head to the south west of France where they will be playing their pool matches against Italy, Argentina and England in Beziers and Perpignan.
“They’ve got quite a few boys coming back. Cameron Hutchison was a massive part of last year’s squad but was injured most of this year so that’s a big bonus,” he pointed out.
“To pull a victory over England in the Six Nations shows what they can do when they are on form, so they just need to keep working hard. They’ve got a new coach in Bryan Redpath, who has a lot of experience, so I’m sure he’ll be good for the team.”
Fagerson, who has followed older brother Zander into both the Warriors and now Scotland squads, reckoned his involvement with the under-20s set him up for what has been his breakthrough season in the professional game.
“The Under-20s World Cup last year was awesome, one of the best experiences in my life to have four weeks with your best mates and we had an awesome run of games last year to beat Australia and Wales. I was really gutted, in a way, not to be going (this year), but at the end of the day you are not going to turn down a tour call,” he observed.
“I was still a year young last year, so I wasn’t part of the leadership group or anything like that, so I was able to get my head down, work hard and focus on my game. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a really good stepping-stone to go onto pre-season with Glasgow Warriors.”
His performances have been such that he was identified yesterday as the latest winner of the Sir Willie Purves Quaich as the Friends of Scottish Rugby Young Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of clubmates Jonny Gray (2014), Finn Russell (2015), ex-clubmate Mark Bennett (2016) and his current Edinburgh colleague Magnus Bradbury (2017) and Fagerson was pleased to join that company.
“With guys like Finn, Jonny and Mark Bennett being in this position before it is quite a prestigious award and I am very honoured to get that recognition given the number of good young guys coming through,” he said.
Russell and Gray are among those who have been left out of this summer’s Scotland tour, but Bennett has been given a chance to revive his international prospects after being called into the tour party yesterday when another of his former Glasgow Warriors teammates, Alex Dunbar, was ruled out after suffering a hamstring injury in training last week.
Bennett made the the last of his 20 Scotland appearances during last year’s 2017 Six Nations loss to England at Twickenham and subsequently moved to Edinburgh while recovering from the serious knee injury he suffered that day.
That was the second time in Bennett’s career that he has had to undergo knee reconstruction surgery and he did not play again until the New Year, but was beginning to show signs of returning to his best form by the end of his first season with his new club.
This tour opportunity looks to be well timed, giving him the opportunity to get some more rugby under his belt, having made just a dozen appearances since that comeback in January and to remind the national team management of his quality.
Source : HeraldScotland