Some perspective to how far he’s come and his life away from rugby has given Zander Fagerson a new lease of life, a Lions tour and real ambition for Scotland.
The tight-head from Kirriemuir fully enjoyed his experience with the Lions in South Africa. But he believes it was being less hard on himself and appreciating home life that got him there.
“I just needed a bit more clarity, I think,” he said ahead of Saturday’s return to international rugby against Tonga at Murrayfield.
“Coming back from the World Cup when we didn’t give a good account of ourselves, it hit some players pretty hard. I was pretty gutted. I had put so much pressure on myself to play well that I took away the fundamental thing of enjoying rugby.
“So I worked with a few people on that side of things, the psychology side of things. I’m nowhere near the finished article, but I’m happy, I’m in a good spot and enjoying my rugby again.”
‘Rugby was the be-all and end-all’
Even though he was an internatuional at such a young age for a prop, Fagerson took every setback too personally, he thinks.
“I thought that if I didn’t play well I let my family down, let my teammates down,” he said. “I had to get five carries, five tackles and they all had to be dominant.
“If I didn’t get those I’d be thinking ‘I’m not hitting my targets, I’ve not done what I set out to do’.
“But growing up and maturing a bit changed that as well. Rugby was the be all and end all. But being a dad now and having my family has been key. I’m still a rugby player and that’s important but it is not going to define who I am.
“Whatever happens on the pitch I’m always a dad, a parent, a brother, a son. That gave me a lot of perspective and made me enjoy my rugby more.”
‘It’s definitely up my street’
Tonga are an ideal re-introduction to international rugby for Fagerson, as they play his kind of game.
“They’re not small human beings, and they like physical rugby,” he said. “It’s definitely up my street. With all the Islander teams, you know they’re going to bring very direct running routes. If you run straight at them, they’re going to smoke you.
“We have had Walter Fifita come to Glasgow, he’s a winger and he’s bigger than me. But they’re all like that. It’s going to be a physical challenge but one I’m looking forward to, one I’m up for.
“I couldn’t wait to get back to Glasgow after the Lions knowing how much potential we have, and what we might achieve.
“Sometimes you put other countries on a pedestal and think they’re doing something different. But after the Lions I realised that the group I’m involved with for Glasgow and Scotland, they can mix it up with the very best.”
The return of ‘Muzz’
One his room-mate this week Murray McCallum, an old friend from Strathallan School and for Scotland Under-20s.
The Dunfermline prop didn’t have a job at the end of last season after not being renewed at Edinburgh. But he got a temporary contract at Glasgow and is now back in the Scotland squad looking to add to his single cap so far.
“Muzz is an awesome guy, a great bloke and a great player,” said Fagerson. “Credit to him; he was left out by Edinburgh, and he came to Glasgow. Then it was standard Muzz, he just got his head down, started grafting and he’s been absolutely great for us.
“It’s awesome to be in the squad with him. We’re pushing each other so hopefully we can both play in some capacity together.
“I’m really chuffed to have him here. It’s a really exciting time to be part of this front-row group with Scotland.”
The Scots were forced into two changes to the 42-man squad for the Autumn Series before it had even assembled. Mark Bennett and Fraser Brown – a potential captain for the game against Tonga – were both injured in weekend games.
Dave Cherry, who played so well in the Six Nations in Brown and Stuart McInally’s absencem has been called up. Magnus Bradbury has also joined the squad.