Grant Gilchrist aims to make up for lost time against Australia
Injuries may have stalled the career of Grant Gilchrist, but the Scotland second-row forward is raring to go against Australia on Saturday.
The 27-year-old has been recalled to the starting line-up by Gregor Townsend as he looks cement his place in the side.
Things looked promising for the Edinburgh forward in 2014 when he was named captain of his country, but two broken arms and a groin problem have hampered his progress.
Ben Toolis started the autumn Tests alongside Jonny Gray – with brother Richie injured – but has been dropped to the bench to make way for Gilchrist following defeat to New Zealand.
Having been named in the team, Gilchrist is confident he is almost back to his best but admits it took longer than expected to reach those heights.
“Over the last two seasons, I’ve probably been gradually getting back to my best,” he said. “I think I’m playing as well as I ever have played right now, regardless of injuries.
“I take the confidence from that and go out and play. I don’t think about the past, there’s enough going on right now.”
He added: “It takes a little while (to get back to your best) and you take it for granted.
“You assume that you have a couple of years where you don’t play a lot, but will go back to what you were (before the injury) straight away, and that’s something I learned.
“I maybe put too much pressure on myself early on to be the player I was, rather than concentrating on getting back to match sharpness and making sure I improve every day.”
Despite running the All Blacks close last week – coming within metres of snatching a dramatic late win that would not have been undeserved – the Scotland camp insist they face a tougher test against Australia this week at BT Murrayfield.
The Wallabies lost to Scotland during the summer, but have since made significant improvements despite a heavy defeat to England on Saturday.
Gilchrist expects a tough match this weekend. He said: “We have spoken all week about it being just as big a challenge as last week.
“They’re a much-improved side from the team we beat and played really well against in the summer.
“The task is pretty much what it was last week: we’re playing one of the best sides in the world at home, which is something we’re relishing but we know where the challenge lies.”
Meanwhile, Australia coach Michael Cheika has escaped punishment for comments made during the Wallabies’ 30-6 loss to England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Head coach Cheika was caught on camera sarcastically applauding decisions that went against Australia at the weekend, and saying “f****** cheats” when a possible try was ruled out. On two occasions he walked down the steps from the coaches’ box to the touchline to remonstrate with officials and received abuse from supporters that he described as a “gobful” that was “not pleasant”, at one point resulting in a verbal exchange with a fan.
The Autumn International Disciplinary had been looking at the comments all week but announced a warning was sufficient ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Scotland.
“Mr Cheika and the Australian Rugby Union cooperated with the investigation, which has now been completed,” a statement read.
“In light of Mr Cheika’s explanations of his conduct, his clear understanding of the need to protect and promote the interests of the sport, and his open apology for any offence caused, the Disciplinary Officer for the Autumn Internationals (in consultation with World Rugby) has decided not to pursue any disciplinary proceedings against Mr Cheika.
“The Disciplinary Officer has, however, urged Mr Cheika to be aware of the risks during matches when he knows he will be being filmed and potentially broadcast, and where possible to moderate his conduct and language accordingly.
“Mr Cheika has accepted the position.”
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg; 14 Tommy Seymour; 13 Huw Jones; 12 Pete Horne; 11 Sean Maitland; 10 Finn Russell; 9 Ali Price; 1 Darryl Marfo; 2 Stuart McInally; 3 Simon Berghan; 4 Grant Gilchrist; 5 Jonny Gray; 6 John Barclay (c); 7 Hamish Watson; 8 Ryan Wilson. Subs: 16 Fraser Brown; 17 Jamie Bhatti; 18 Zander Fagerson; 19 Ben Toolis; 20 Cornell du Preez; 21 Henry Pyrgos; 22 Phil Burleigh; 23 Byron McGuigan.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale; 14 Marika Koroibete; 13 Tevita Kuridrani; 12 Samu Kerevi; 11 Reece Hodge; 10 Bernard Foley; 9 Will Genia; 8 Sean McMahon; 7 Michael Hooper (c); 6 Ben McCalman; 5 Blake Enever; 4 Rob Simmons; 3 Sekope Kepu; 2 Stephen Moore; 1 Scott Sio. Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Karmichael Hunt, 23 Henry Speight