Newly-signed Edinburgh lock Fraser McKenzie believes his decision to move back to the Capital can be the catalyst for a place in the Scotland squad.
The 26-year-old confirmed yesterday that he had signed a two-year deal which sees him rejoin the club where he launched a professional career that has subsequently taken him to Sale Sharks and Newcastle Falcons.
“I still had a year on my contract but I managed to come to an agreement with the SRU and Newcastle to arrange a move. I just felt it was a good time for me to come back,” he explained. “Obviously there were opportunities in my position to come back. It has always been in my plans to come back because I think there are big opportunities up here and I think I need to be back in this hub to get onto the radar of the (Scotland) coaches. That was really the plan.”
Pointing to the possible impact a successful season in Edinburgh colours could have on his international aspirations, McKenzie added: “By coming back, there is no guarantee that you’ll get in. It’s a highly competitive position. It’s all on me really. It’s about my ability and if I prove it, hopefully that will put the eyes on me. There is no guarantee but I’m looking forward to working hard.”
Edinburgh assistant coach Steve Scott worked with McKenzie at Sale, where his colleagues included Edinburgh prop Alasdair Dickinson. Their input alerted the lock to a potential move, and, with pre-season training under way, the negotiations proceeded rapidly and McKenzie leapt at the move.
While he has spent much of his time south of the border battling back from injury or fighting for survival in the English Premiership, McKenzie does believe that he is now a more rounded player than the youngster who left Edinburgh three seasons ago.
“People might say my game has gone backwards. I got into the Six Nations squad then did my shoulder in when I was at Sale so I had a poor year straight after. Then I moved to Newcastle and they struggled as well,” he added.
“I would call it quite a tough time but then over three years I have had a lot of game time and I think it adds different characteristics to my game. It’s a tough league, set-piece orientated, so I am definitely more experienced but I definitely have all the original attributes that I had when I was here.”
However, while his new work surroundings are familiar, the 6ft 6in Fifer admits that the extent of that familiarity was less than he might have anticipated.
“It is totally different, even down to the restructure inside the stadium,” he said. “There has been a massive change in personnel all the way down. It’s like a new club. I met all the team on Monday morning and it has a good feel to it.”
With pre-season training already under way, there will be no time for McKenzie to ease his way into the Murrayfield environment.
Coach Alan Solomons made no secret of his dissatisfaction at the condition of his players when he arrived last summer. He is ensuring that there will be no likelihood of a repeat this season with his players having returned last week. With Newcastle following a similar timetable, McKenzie was already building up to the new campaign although he did concede that Monday’s first experience of the Edinburgh set-up had been testing.
“I didn’t know I was coming here until early last week so I had done a week already. I’ve not done much over the weekend, just trying to get stuff sorted, but the first session back in was a tough one,” he admitted.
Missing out on the heavy workload are the Scotland squad players and Under-20 representatives, as well as those who are injured or recovering from close-season operations.
Among the men in the latter category are Jack Cuthbert and Tom Brown, who should be match-fit by October or November. However, the prognosis for Matt Scott is less encouraging, with the international centre unlikely to resume until December.