Edinburgh captain Stuart McInally admits he struggled midway through the lockdown with no rugby to look forward to – so he is more than ready to finish off such a promising season in style. His club top Guinness PRO14 Conference B and are all but certain to be playing in the semi-finals.

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They will finishing a truncated regular season with two BT Murrayfield derbies against Glasgow on August 22 and 28 and they also have a European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bordeaux in France to look forward to in September. “It’s good that we are properly training for something and we are working towards a game on August 22, it is definitely giving us some purpose,” said McInally, the Edinburgh hooker.

“During lockdown, the thing I struggled with and a lot of boys struggled with, you were trying to stay fit but you didn’t actually know if there was going to be any rugby this year. You were staying fit in case there was. That’s great for five or six weeks, and then I hit a bit of a lull.

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Former Canada and Clermont lock Jamie Cudmore guests on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series

“I think it was when England started coming out of lockdown and we didn’t. It was just getting a bit tough. But you get through that. Everyone I spoke to seemed to be in the same boat, had that lull halfway through lockdown when they were just getting a bit sick and tired of the routine.

“Everyone is buzzing to get back playing and now we have a game on the horizon our training is much more relevant to playing rugby.”

Speaking after returning to Edinburgh training, McInally added: “Everyone was a bit anxious coming back into it. None of us have really had three months off before when you have not made a tackle or done tram training. But a lot of boys have actually seen that as a positive, ironing out any niggles and making sure their bodies are right. We have great numbers training again.

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“It is going to be a busy season but I have found getting back into training is like riding a bike, once you are back on the pitch you get back into that competitive spirit. I feel we will be ready to go.

“It’s definitely a motivating factor knowing that we are not just playing these two games against Glasgow to close out the season, that if we win these games we can put ourselves in a great position to finish top of our pool, which would give us a home semi-final, which would be awesome.

“It’s definitely exciting. We have not been in this position many times towards the end of the season since I’ve been here where we have actually got a chance to really go for it.”

McInally, meanwhile, has claimed to be excited by the prospect of a new-look international rugby tournament in the autumn. It is understood that plans for an eight-team competition in November and December are well advanced. Scotland would host Japan and France and travel to Italy and then play off against the equivalent ranked team in the other group, which will contain England, Wales, Ireland and Fiji.

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The plans – as well as an October 31 date for Scotland’s final Guinness Six Nations clash in Wales – are expected to be confirmed this week. Scotland had been due to host New Zealand, Argentina and Japan in November before the coronavirus pandemic threw sporting schedules up in the air and McInally is intrigued by the provisional one-off event.

“It looks really exciting,” said the Edinburgh player, who captained Scotland during their November series last year. “We often get the chance to play teams from around the globe around autumn time so it’s good to welcome Japan and Fiji. It’s just something different and different is often quite exciting. It’s going to be busy, there will be a lot of games in a short space of time, I’m sure it will be good to be involved in that.”

With World Rugby working with unions to introduce a more structured and competitive international calendar, the tournament could be a taster of things to come. McInally said: “I’ve always really enjoyed playing in the autumn Tests and the chance to play teams like New Zealand, Australia, teams you normally never get the chance to play unless you are lucky enough to tour there.

“But at the same time, if there is a competitive side to a tournament, that’s also really exciting. If this does carry forward it looks a really positive set-up. My own experience of the autumn is playing these incredible teams from around the world in one-off games and that’s also really exciting and I know it’s exciting for the fans as well. Whatever they do, I’m sure it will be great to watch.”

 

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