The Scottish World Cup bolter who's shocked by his own rapid rise
Grant Stewart is as shocked as anyone to find himself in the running for Scotland’s World Cup squad.
But now that opportunity has been handed to him, the Glasgow Warriors hooker is determined to make the most of it and snatch a seat on the flight to Japan.
As recently as 2015, the 24-year-old was playing second string club rugby with Glasgow Hawks.
An injury crisis at Scotstoun provided the former youth international the chance to sign professionally with Warriors at the end of last year.
His displays for Dave Rennie’s side – including a try-scoring substitute display in the Guinness PRO14 final – have propelled him into Gregor Townsend’s thinking for this year’s tournament in the Far East.
Given he has made just 24 appearances in the pro ranks – and only eight starts – he understands he will likely be the odd one out when the Scotland coach is forced to cut the number of hookers currently among his 44-man training squad from four to three.
Yet the latter pair’s recent run of injuries mean Stewart’s impossible dream has now entered the realm of the conceivable.
“If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be in the World Cup mix then I’d have said ‘no chance’, as there’s a lot of talented boys playing for Scotland,” he said.
“When I was playing for Hawks there was a wee bit of an injury crisis at Glasgow and I got called in to be 24th man.
“I got noticed then and got the academy deal, then I got a chance at Glasgow and just tried to push on.
“I just want to push on as far as I can. I want to play and if I train well I don’t see why not. If I do my role well and work hard to improve then who knows what could happen.”
Stewart will have to dislodge a squad regular if he is to force his way into Townsend’s 31-man traveling party.
But the competition for places has not yet disrupted the harmony among the contenders for the number two jersey at their St Andrews training camp as they prepare for the opening warm-up clash with France in Nice on August 17.
Stewart said: “Stuart McInally has been really good to me, he’s kept me calm on the throwing, while Fraz and George have been good as well.
“I just need to make sure I know my role as much as I can.
“This has been a huge jump in standards, it’s just so much faster. If you don’t do something right then there’s always a consequence, and that’s the biggest difference about the level I’d played at previously.
“It’s about being fit enough, about communicating in defence and attack, and about asking questions to make sure everything’s all good.
“Training’s starting to get a wee bit more intense. As selection gets closer the boys are starting to go a bit harder.
“This will help a lot because I’ll get a bit more experience here, and if I don’t make the World Cup squad I’ll take that back to Glasgow and try and put it out there.”
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