Rory Darge feels “refreshed” and ready to lead Scotland into Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations showdown with France after dismissing any concerns about being exposed to such a big match following a six-week injury lay-off.
The 23-year-old flanker has been sidelined since sustaining knee ligament damage while playing for Glasgow against Edinburgh on December 30 but – after being named national team co-captain by Gregor Townsend last month – he has been deemed fit enough to start against Les Bleus at Murrayfield.
Darge played down any notion that his lack of recent game time might be an issue.
“Really good,” he said, when asked at the pre-match captain’s run press conference on Friday how he was feeling.
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“I’ve played a lot of rugby the last year and a half so a five-week break is not the end of the world.
“It’s not a complete break because I’ve been working hard in the gym and rehabbing but compared to the physical and mental toll of playing rugby every week, I just feel fresh and I’m really looking forward to playing.
“I’ve just been trying my best to get back as quickly as I can and in as good a condition as I can.
“With the physios, it’s sometimes quite dynamic in terms of the date you will be back. It’s dependent on ligament tests and things like that.
“Getting too caught up in it initially would have been the wrong thing to do, but now I’m back I’m obviously delighted. There are not many better games – it’s one of the ones you really want to play in.
“I’ve had issues with this ligament before, it is what it is, but I don’t have any concern about it. I’m used to coming back from injury.”
Darge has skippered Scotland once previously after leading the team in a World Cup warm-up match at home to Italy last July, but this weekend’s match is his first since he and Finn Russell were named as co-captains.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Gregor obviously gave me the opportunity last year and that was a special week.
“I remember the whole week really well.
“This time it’s obviously a Six Nations game at home against one of the best teams in the world, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Saturday’s match represents Darge’s fourth Six Nations start after he missed last year’s championship through injury. His first start for the national team came at home to the French two years ago, when he scored in a 36-17 defeat.
“I remember the anthems, that was a goosebump moment being my first Scotland start and first game at Murrayfield,” the back-rower recalled. “Then the try, in terms of moments that is probably right up there in my career.
“I don’t score many tries, it’s not a massive part of my game, but to score in front of a home crowd and my family was really special.
“Maybe two years ago, my first time involved in the Six Nations, there were more nerves involved whereas this one I’m just really looking forward to it.
“I’ve had the experience of it before, I love playing at Murrayfield in Six Nations, the anthems and everything are unbelievable. The build-up to the game really gets me up for it.”
Darge watched from the stand last weekend as Scotland kicked off their campaign with a hard-fought 27-26 win away to Wales and he is hoping to make it back-to-back victories – a scenario that would leave them sitting nicely ahead of their next two matches at home to England and away to Italy.
“That’s what we’re going out to try and do,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot physically.
“We can’t really look further than Saturday. I know that’s the easy answer, but it’s true.
“After that, it would be massively exciting (the possibility of competing for the title), but we really have to concentrate on Saturday.”