October 11, 2013
Matt Scott races away for Scotland © PA Photos
Matt Scott is not one for hanging around. In two years of professional rugby and one in Edinburgh's academy, he has made his Test debut, beaten the Wallabies in Australia, played against his hero Dan Carter and reached a Heineken Cup semi-final. He has already achieved more at the age of 23 than some grizzled Scottish veterans have throughout a long and weathering career.
This weekend he will be part of the Edinburgh side entertaining Munster at Murrayfield and his team will be looking to rekindle those memories of April 7, 2012, when they knocked Toulouse out of the Heineken Cup - a victory for the heart over the wallet.
Scott had only played a handful of games for Edinburgh by the time he faced a Toulouse side which included a plethora of Test talent. "It was pretty mad to be honest, I had just come straight out of club rugby," Scott told ESPN. "It took a bit of the fear factor away for me. I didn't really grab the magnitude of what I was doing."
But when he comes up against Munster on Saturday, he will have much more big-game nous behind him. Edinburgh have since failed to reach those 2012 heights on any domestic stage, but regardless of off-field politics, the start of the Heineken Cup is a highlight in any season for those at Murrayfield.
"It's an amazing competition but the players don't really pay much attention to the politics side of it all," Scott told ESPN. "We just want to play rugby. We play Munster week-in-week out but they always seem to turn it up a notch in the tournament. Every year, regardless of how strong their squad is, they seem to perform well. It's a tough match for us but it's nice to go into the Heineken Cup as we have a clean slate."
But while he, on the face of it, has less experience than some of his opponents, it is his upbringing rooted in Scottish rugby which helped him make the leap from someone who dreamed of playing professional rugby to an individual who realised it.
His path into elite Scottish rugby is a refreshing one amid Edinburgh's current scattergun recruitment policy which seems to have thrown up at least one new southern hemisphere recruit every week for the last six or so. For Scott, learning rugby on the hard tracks of Currie has been just as important as gleaning as much knowledge as possible from the now departed Mike Blair and the retired Chris Paterson and Allan Jacobsen.
His father was also integral to taking Scott to where he is today. Two years into his law degree, he was offered a contract by the Glasgow Warriors. Instead of jumping at the opportunity, something he could have been forgiven for doing, he stuck to his guns, completed the degree and then took up an option with Edinburgh.
"I grew up just outside Edinburgh and used to go and watch them a lot. It was a trek to get in for the games but it was always good fun. Playing professional rugby, the guys like Nick de Luca and Blair, Jacobsen and Paterson were huge for me but growing up it was always my Dad.
"He watched every single one of my games and stuck by my decisions. The Warriors offer was an example. My decision paid off in the end and he stuck by that. It was one of those things. It was a case of weighing things up and rather than jumping at things and I hoped that if I was good enough then it'd work out for me."
Speaking to Scott, there is a feeling he is more than just your average international, he is a thinking-man's player - he can also do the Rubik's cube, "it's not the coolest thing to admit, but it's different", he says.
Heineken Cups, Rubik's cubes, internationals, law degrees and playing at Murrayfield; for some it would get a little bit too much. But there's no hint of that with Scott. His club side are currently battling against poor form, the departures of some experienced players and a new-look coaching team.
They are currently 11th in the league with coach Alan Solomons only being in the job since July 30, just over a month before the start of the PRO12 season. They are adjusting but with a Heineken Cup group containing Gloucester, Perpignan and Munster they will have to learn on their feet.
"We're very much in a transitional period at the moment as the new coaches only came in for the last week of pre-season," Scott added. "They've brought in a different style of play but we are getting used to the systems and a more consistent level of performances will inevitably come".
This weekend sees Edinburgh head into the tournament with their "clean slate". Not much is expected of them, but the underdog tag is nothing new for Scott.
"I quite like being the underdog. It focuses the mind a little bit more, it gives you a bit of extra motivation to prove people wrong. For example, on the summer tour (2013) we lost to Samoa and the media thought we would ship 50 or 60 odd points to the Springboks. We came through the whole week reading it and it was just the best motivation.
"Apart from the last 10 or so minutes, we were right in that game. The key for us, both at Scotland and Edinburgh, is consistency. We get our one-off wins against the best teams in the world, but then sometimes struggle to back it up the following week. It's all about consistency, we talk about that a lot both leading up to the Heineken Cup and the autumn series for Scotland."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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