Damien Hoyland admits missing out on last year’s Rugby World Cup was the best thing that could have happened to his Scotland prospects.
The Edinburgh wing was named in Vern Cotter’s pre-tournament training squad but was ultimately overlooked for the 31-man group which travelled to England in 2015.
But that setback did not deter the 22-year-old, who returned to his club side intent on carving himself a slot in Alan Solomons’ XV.
Having started just one match the year before while he was sent out to develop with Scotland’s Sevens team, he made an immediate impression once reporting back at Murrayfield after his World Cup disappointment.
With eight tries from 20 appearances, only three other men crossed the whitewash more regularly than the Edinburgh flyer during last season’s Guinness Pro12 campaign.
And that has not gone unnoticed by Cotter, who invited Hoyland back into the Scotland fold ahead of this month’s two-Test tour of Japan.
“When I was called up last year I was very, very surprised,” admitted the former Boroughmuir and Melrose youngster. “But after training with the guys I did feel that I was ready for it.
“I had played sevens that year and worked on my physical strength and skills, so I felt quite comfortable when I went up against the other Scotland lads in training. But I’m in an even better place now after the year I’ve had with Edinburgh.
“It would’ve been great to have gone to the World Cup but for me it was a win-win situation at that point. Being involved in the pre-World Cup camp put me in a real good stead to return to Edinburgh.
“I felt way better and had learned a lot from the more experienced guys in the national team. That really helped kick-start my season with Edinburgh.
“Without that I may not have done so well this season. I could’ve gone to the World Cup but not played much, while missing out on the chance to play with Edinburgh. The way things worked out was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.”
But even after his breakthrough season with Edinburgh, Hoyland still admits he was taken aback by his “surreal” Scotland call-up.
He said: “I was hoping to be involved but when I got the email through I sat looking at my phone, struggling to take it in. Regardless of how much you want it, it still comes as a big surprise.
“This was the dream I had from when I started rugby and now it’s happening. I suppose it’s just about not getting too caught up in that and make sure I keep pushing myself further.”
Hoyland’s inclusion originally came at Sean Lamont’s expense.
The 104-cap Glasgow veteran has been given a reprieve, however, following an injury suffered by Harlequins’ Tim Visser.
But Hoyland admits he is walking tall after being named in the squad ahead of a man he grew up admiring.
“Having watched Scotland play from a young age and seeing Sean play, it’s mind-blowing to be in the same team as him now,” he said. “It does give me a bit more confidence knowing I’m in the squad ahead of more-experienced guys.
“When I got my call-up, my expectation was there would be quite a lot of younger guys in but it’s actually almost full strength, so that was also good for my confidence.”
Hoyland is now looking forward to the first Test with Japan in Toyota City on 18 June – which is followed by the double-header’s second leg in Tokyo a week later.
But it will not be his first taste of international action following a brief run out against Italy last summer.
“I played about 15 minutes but didn’t really see the ball,” he explained. “I hit a few rucks and made a few tackles but that was it.
“I didn’t get much of an opportunity to show what I can do. But this season with Edinburgh, I’ve really worked on being confident and getting on the ball. I guess if I can emulate that with Scotland then that is where I’ll be at my most dangerous.”