Rugby World Cup: Scotland's Blade Thomson ready to make up lost time
Blade Thomson might only be in the Scottish set-up a relative wet week but the hulking back-row forward is a man in a hurry. Much of the last year was a write-off through injury. Having had his international debut delayed nine months because of concussion, the 28-year-old has no time to waste.
On Monday he boarded the plane bound for Japan and the Rugby World Cup along with the other chosen men. Before he departed he declared Scotland "ready" for whatever is thrown at them in the days and weeks ahead. That's not a bad psychology given what's been going on in the Tokyo region of late.
It would appear that Scotland's arrival into the city will coincide with the departure of the worst excesses of Typhoon Faxai, the meteorological freak show that battered the region on Monday with record-breaking winds causing flooded streets, uprooted trees and twisted rooftops.
Eddie Jones' England squad had the misfortune to spend five hours in the airport upon arrival on Monday, their transport unable to navigate through the carnage. By the time Gregor Townsend leads his players into the same terminal things should be a whole lot calmer, which is just as well, because there are few boys in that travelling party who might be a touch superstitious about such things given what's happened to them this past while.
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Thomson is one of them. Though he's a Kiwi from top to toe, he qualifies for Scotland through his late paternal grandfather, Robert, from Wishaw. Standing 6' 5" tall and weighing in at 16st 8lbs he's a big, ball-carrying unit, an intelligent back-row reared in the system at Taranaki before moving on to play for the Hurricanes and, on six occasions, for the Maori.
Everybody in New Zealand knew how good Thomson was, but in the white heat of All Blacks rugby he wasn't quite good enough, not for the Test arena at any rate. Injuries didn't help. Concussion, shoulder dislocations - his progress was checked at critical times. If his talent was never in question, his ability to catch a break always has been.
Thomson's career slowed in New Zealand because of three dislocated shoulders in the space of two seasons. He subsequently moved to the Scarlets and last November earned a call-up to the Scotland squad on account of his size, skill and cleverness with ball in hand.
That first cap should have come against Fiji last autumn but a serious concussion did for him. He spent six months out of the game and had almost written off his chances of making this World Cup.
"It's been a long, long journey and my family are super proud of where I'm at at the moment," he says. "One hundred per cent I thought my chance might be gone. Matt Taylor [Scotland's defence coach] rang me with the news and he was cutting in and out a bit on the phone and I was like, 'oh that's it...' I was worried that I hadn't made it. But then he said, 'congratulations, you're in the squad'. I was chuffed."
Tears, overwhelming debuts & being ready
Thomson had made his long awaited debut against France at Murrayfield. He won a second cap against Georgia on Friday night. He's shown nice touches in both games but it's obvious that he's still inching his way back to maximum force. He's not there yet but all the word coming from inside the Scotland camp is that this is the type of player that the country has craved for a long time. The job now is to live up to the hype that surrounds him.
"I was overwhelmed when I made my debut," he says. "I was trying to hold back tears. I'm an aggressive player and I'll do whatever it takes for us to get the win. Whatever it takes. We've had a major focus on making sure our defence is solid, we've worked and worked on that. I think we're ready."
Now that Scotland have left the country the countdown to that opening fixture against Ireland at Yokohama on 22 September has begun in earnest. When they touch down in Tokyo they'll then kick on to Nagasaki for a training camp. For Thomson and his team-mates, time is running out before the big show begins.