Rugby World Cup: Edinburgh’s Stuart McInally on his determination to come back stronger from 2015
A pain in the neck cost Stuart McInally his World Cup chance four years ago, but the new Scotland skipper is ready to shoulder the responsibility of leadership in Japan after shrugging off his 2015 disappointment.
A bulging disc sustained after a weight session just three weeks before the tournament was due to kick-off cost the flanker-to-hooker convert from putting his new front-row skills to the test on rugby’s biggest stage last time round.
It was a devastating blow for the Edinburgh forward as he was left to watch from his living room as Vern Cotter’s side battled through to the last eight – only to then crash out amid controversial circumstances to Australia at Twickenham.
McInally refused to let his dejection hang like a millstone and has spent the years since ensuring his neck is strong enough to cope with the testing rigours put on his body by scrummaging.
It was that dedication to his cause and his ability to lead by example that convinced Gregor Townsend to name the 29-year-old captain ahead of former holders of the armband Greig Laidlaw and John Barclay for this month’s tournament.
Now McInally is set on making the most of his second chance.
He said: “It’s a really proud moment for me, especially after what happened at the 2015 World Cup.
“That was good for me in a lot of ways, in that I got my first cap at hooker, had made the transition, and had proved to myself that I could do it.
“But I got selected and then obviously having to pull out was a real mixture of emotions, so I look back on that 2015 World Cup with some pretty sore memories of having to watch the game from my sofa with a sore neck.
“So this time it’s great, to know that I’ve made the 31 and been chosen as captain is a real confidence booster for me. I’m over the moon. Touch wood I’m fit and healthy.
“I’ve actually not thought too much about 2015. It does seem like a long time ago. People keep bringing it up about the last World Cup and obviously it was disappointing, but this time around I feel like a different player.
“I was very much just coming towards what felt like the end of my transition from back row to hooker, had two caps and was feeling good.
“I was still really inexperienced as hooker and I think that if I’d gone to that World Cup I wouldn’t have been as comfortable as I am now standing on the sideline throwing the ball in or scrummaging.
“The journey has been tough. I remember when I found out I was missing the 2015 World Cup – I said to myself that I was going to use this to come back stronger.
“I was determined to come back with a stronger neck than I’d ever had before because I think I took that for granted, how strong your neck needs to be to play in the front row in international rugby.
“So I did loads of stuff – I still do – to keep on top of that.
“Experience has helped me loads and this time around I feel more relaxed, and personally I’m in a good place to go there and play some good rugby.”