Once he was past his “what’s the point?” moment and there was something to aim at, Stuart McInally’s motivation took off from lockdown lull and now he can’t wait to get playing again.
It’s a different environment even now after Scotland’s leading pro rugby players came off furlough and went into limited contact last week – although no scrums and mauls quite yet – with players wearing facecoverings at all times and meetings held in the open air, but the issue was always having a game to aim at, said the Edinburgh and former Scotland skipper.
“During lockdown you were training alone, and while I had a weights set-up in the garage the routine started to get to me about five or six weeks in,” he admitted.
“The thing I struggled with – and it seems to have been a common thing – was the fact that you were training, but you didn’t know what date you were training towards and whether there would be any rugby again this year.”
The ease of contact with team-mates and Scotland colleagues to talk it through helped a lot during this period, he added.
“I think it was when England came out of lockdown but we weren’t that you felt it the most,” he said. “I took a week off training, played some golf and just tried to re-energise. Then we got a date and a plan (to get back to playing), so you could re-focus, you got through it and now everyone’s just buzzing.”
The fear of the wrath of head coach Richard Cockerill may have had something to do with the quick re-focus, he conceded.
““It was a bit strange coming back into training because we were all looking at each other to see what shape we were in,” he said. “Some guys had lost muscle mass because they hadn’t got access to gym stuff, but they were the ones in top running shape because that’s all they’d been doing.
“But we get worked hard at Edinburgh and you know that if you come back in bad shape then you’ll just get stuck on a Watt bike or a rowing machine for four weeks. For a lot of boys, the fear of that kept them in good shape!”
The target date is August 22, when Edinburgh will play Glasgow at BT Murrayfield in the first of two games in six days to finish the regular PRO14 season. Beyond that, there’s the prospect of play-offs, a Challenge Cup quarter-final or working towards an imminent new season, so there’s plenty to occupy the mind.
In addition, McInally is relishing a “hugely exciting” new international programme in November – including an extra “warm-up” game for Scotland against Georgia before the postponed Six Nations finisher against Wales, and then the one-off “8 Nations” tournament with games against France, Italy and Japan.
“I always enjoy the November international anyway, one-off games against teams like New Zealand you don’t play very often,” he said.
“It does seem strange to be finishing up the Six Nations, the tournament seems an age ago now. I don’t think it matters whether the Wales game is played at Twickenham or wherever, it’ll be a tough enough game anyway.
“Hopefully by then we’ll be able to see fans in there to watch it live. If not, it’s just another thing we’re going to have to get with.”