Edinburgh Rugby prop Rory Sutherland is aiming to get more involvement in the Scotland squad while keeping up his club side’s fantastic start to the season.
The 23-year-old featured in the first three matches of the Guinness PRO12 campaign, helping Edinburgh to wins over Leinster, Benetton Treviso and Ospreys. He was also set to start in last Friday’s victory over Ulster, but was called into the Scotland squad as cover for the injured Ryan Grant in the build-up to the world cup quarter-final against Australia.
Sutherland admits that he was caught up in a whirlwind that accompanied the late change of plan, saying: “I was sitting waiting to go to play against Ulster on Friday night and I got the call half an hour before I was ready to go. So I flew down (to London) on Friday evening.“
And describing his excitement when he was contacted by Scotland team manager Gavin Scott, he added: “When I first got the phone call, I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe it. From trying to prepare myself mentally for the Ulster game, it was tough to try and concentrate to get my bag ready. I must have paced the house for 15 minutes.”
Sutherland may not have been involved in the quarter-final, but he was struck by the intensity of the occasion, particularly the noise generated by the Scotland supporters on the journey to the ground and inside the stadium.
“A mile before Twickenham there were thousands of fans standing and cheering us on in the bus. It was a brilliant experience, a brilliant atmosphere. I couldn’t even hear myself shouting”, he explained, before insisting that he plans to use the call up as motivation over the coming weeks. “It gives me a lot of confidence to know that I am on the edge (of the Scotland squad). It also makes me more hungry, getting a little taste of what it is like.”
However, by the end of a nerve-shredding encounter which ended in controversial fashion, he was caught up in another set of emotions. And he concedes that he is looking forward to having an opportunity to consign the agonising circumstances to history and focus on the task in hand, a trip to face Zebre on Saturday afternoon.
A winning run that extends to six matches including two preparation games against tough opposition has instilled a steely determination in the squad, an attribute exhibited to great effect on Friday when Edinburgh repelled a last ditch attack by Ulster following a close range lineout. That, believes Sutherland, illustrates the current mood amongst a group of players that has acquired the habit of seeing out tightly fought encounters.
“The boys are building a lot of confidence. When you win six games on the trot including beating Romania when they were preparing for the world cup and beating Ulster who are considered a good PRO12 side and beating Leinster at home, the boys are really confident.
“There’s a positive attitude. Training is going well so the boys are firing on all cylinders at the moment”, he said. “The boys showed a lot of character, a lot of guts on Friday night to pull the win out of the bag. It’s a confidence thing. When teams are building pressure like that, it’s how you handle it and the boys handled it really well.”
Zebre may sit bottom of the table but, while the tone is upbeat, there is no danger of Sutherland and his colleagues underestimating this weekend’s opponents who are likely to have their international contingent available.
“I think they will probably have a full-strength team this week so it’s going to be another tough challenge. The last couple of times we’ve gone out there we’ve not been so successful. I don’t think we will make it a third. We are focused and ready for the challenge ahead”, said a confident Sutherland who also threw out a challenge to Edinburgh’s world cup cohort, stating: “We have shown incredible strength in depth in the squad these past four games and in pre-season, so it’s going to be tough for those boys to get into the squad.”