RYAN GRANT will win his fourth Scotland rugby cap against New Zealand on Sunday at the Murrayfield ground he thought he had left behind for good when bowing out of Edinburgh’s team.
Back in 2010, Glasgow Warriors prop forward Grant had seemingly come to the end of the trail in the Capital where Allan Jacobsen, Geoff Cross and Kyle Traynor were all capped in his position, while David Young was a prospect in the Leicester Tigers set-up.
“Coming to the end of my time at Edinburgh I was thinking about not playing rugby again professionally. At that time I wouldn’t have given myself a chance of a cap,” said Grant who, while attached to the Border Reivers earlier in his career, found himself occasionally turning out for Heriot’s.
Indeed, he almost certainly managed more starts for the Goldenacre men than the two he achieved for Edinburgh – defeats at the hands of Munster and Leinster – along with 11 substitute appearances in three seasons of RaboDirect PRO12 rugby, plus a solitary Heineken European Cup replacement role against Stade Francais.
What transformed the fortunes of the one-time serving soldier with the Royal Signals was some mentoring by ex-Edinburgh and Scotland centre Sean Lineen along with his Glasgow coaching cohort, Shade Munro.
“Sean had confidence in me when I joined Glasgow,” said Ryan, adding: “The belief both he and Shade had, along with getting regular game time, really built my confidence up.
“Getting regular games brings anybody on but you have to remember I was quite young when I was at Edinburgh, first under the coaching of Andy Robinson and then Rob Moffat.
“I certainly don’t bear any grudges.”
Grant’s confidence has developed to the extent that he will remind you with a twinkle in his eye that three appearances on the summer tour against Australia, Fiji and Samoa have left him with “a 100 per cent record” to take into the match with the All Blacks.
The unbeaten record that really counts lies in the statistic that says the countries have met 28 times with the Kiwis winning 26 and drawing two. However, Grant, who was born in Kirkcaldy but grew up in Malaysia, sees that as a major incentive.
“It’s a chance to make history in a Scotland team which has never beaten New Zealand,” he said. “What a feeling that would be if we broke the duck.”
Not that Grant is in any danger of underestimating what lies ahead, having begun his prep some time ago.
“Playing against the All Blacks has been at the forefront of my mind for a couple of weeks now and they are impressive, but I’ve had a good look at them, especially the front row, and we’ll all go out with guns loaded.
“I do my analysis which extended to watching New Zealand in the Rugby Championship (against other Southern Hemisphere teams) and I’ve kept a close eye, in particular, on props I could be up against, such as Ben Franks and Charlie Faumuina.
“I’ve also spoken with Angus Macdonald, a colleague at Glasgow who has played for the All Blacks. I’ve seen the way he prepares and that has given me a bit of insight into what will happen when the first scrum goes down.
“Until that moment you really don’t know what lies in store scrummaging-wise. You just take it from there, but it will be extremely tough and you find out what you are made of against the best in the world.
“As a kid the All Blacks were the stars of the game and you think about it (playing against them) all the time.
“As soon as this became a possibility it was in the front of my mind that we would take these guys on. They are human, like us, and while I admit that Samoa are not the force the All Blacks are, the props I came up against when we played them – Census Johnson and Zak Taulafo – were extremely solid.”
In fact, such has been the extent of Scotland’s fitness woes at prop, in addition to Euan Murray’s unavailability on the Sabbath for religious reasons, that Grant finds himself liable to have to switch to the opposite side of the scrum should tight head Geoff Cross suffer any injury.
Again it is a prospect Grant is inclined to regard as a challenge, while not wishing any harm to befall Cross.
“There are things to consider when switching sides besides scrummaging but I’ve done it before. It is do-able,” he says.