Injury woe a blessing in disguise?
August 17, 2010
Scotland coach Andy Robinson was in a tight squeeze during his squad's recent get-together at St Andrews © PA Photos
I Know What You Did Last Summer, so the film title goes, and it is entirely appropriate for rugby players because they always do the same thing every summer, year in, year out, almost without exception.
They have an operation.
You and I lie on a beach abroad and moan about getting sunburnt or lie on a beach in Scotland and moan about getting frost bite but rugby players take the off season to lie on an operating table and get the sawbones to do his worst. Apparently it's the only way to guarantee that they can run around for another ten months before they head for the operating room once again.
"Same time next August?"
"Yes please doc. Book me in now and we'll decide what to cut nearer the time."
Andy Robinson had his national squad session at St Andrews last week and the injured list reads like a Who's Who of Scottish rugby.
Chris Cusiter took no part in the Argentinean tour and he took no part in last week's session because his problematic knee is still a problem. Cusiter made the schoolboy error of not having an operation over the summer when he obviously needed one. It is self-evident that his joint isn't working properly and a scum-half with one good knee is destined for the local pub team…as a bagman. Cuiter is rumoured to be contemplating an operation now.
Al Kellock superseded the scrum-half as Scotland skipper and the big lock showed his smarts by getting that knee "tidy up" over the summer except that the surgeon had his glasses on upside down and obviously put the leg on backwards given the time it is taking the big man to heal.
Kellock is in good company. While you and I were weeping at the Ryanair check-in desk ("Yes sir, a packet of polos does count as hand luggage") Graham Morrison, Nathan Hines and utility back Jim Thompson were all lying back and thinking of England (and Wales and Ireland and Italy and France). All three men had a knee operation in the summer.
Johnnie Beattie has always had an individual streak about him so the Scotland No.8 branched out and insisted on shoulder surgery instead of the knee variety. So too did Glasgow breakway James Eddie. And not be to left out winger Simon Danielli got his shoulder "seen to" in what is laughably called the off-season.
A hooker called Fraser Brown who you may never have heard off did not have shoulder surgery but he will probably need to. He may be the answer to future pub quizzes when he you hear the question: Who signed professional forms for Edinburgh but never played rugby again in his life? I sincerely hope it doesn't come to that but Brown has already had two operations and he may need a third. I am no medical expert but we can safely assume that many, many operations are only good for the wealth and well-being of Messers Sawbones and Sons.
It doesn't end there. Hooker Dougie Hall had an operation on his hand while Rory Lamont just broke his. Meanwhile Nick De Luca is resting his strained groin…provide your own joke or use one of Frankie Howard's old ones.
It's a wonder that Robinson found enough fit players to make up a four ball at St Andrews let alone the full thirty players to play some semi-opposed stuff!
So all this early season must be a disaster? Err, no. It's great. Wonderful. Majestic. Miraculous. It inevitably means that Scotland will no go on and top their pool at the World Cup which, let's not forget, kicks off just over twelve months hence.
While the rest of the world's international rugby players will be slugging it out for club and country for the next twelve long exhausting months almost without a break, the Scots who are currently carrying injuries will have a nice long break, come back in time for Christmas and enjoy half a season of rugby to hone their fitness before going into the World Cup training camps well rested and fresh for the battles ahead.
It's the perfect scenario. Let's face it, a decent injury/operation is the only time the modern player gets a proper break from the daily grind of professional rugby which chews them up and spits them out like so much meat. It is with great foresight that so many Scots have chosen to miss the initial part of the season and I for one can't blame them?
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter