Ruaridh Jackson was always blessed with a bristling sense of purpose and enterprise throughout his Test rugby career.
So it’s hardly surprising the former Scotland and Glasgow Warriors star, who announced his retirement from the professional game in May, has not been putting his feet up in the intervening period, despite the restrictions imposed by Covid-19.
On the contrary, the 32-year-old Aberdonian, who kicked a last-minute penalty on his international debut to sink Samoa at Pittodrie in 2010, has unveiled plans for a charity cycling challenge with Scotland colleagues Ryan Grant, Richie Vernon and Andrew Easson, and the quartet will tackle the Caledonian Way – all 234 miles of it in the space of just 36 hours – next month.
They have arranged the initiative to raise money for the MyName’5 Doddie Foundation – which was created by Doddie Weir after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease – and Unite Against Cancer, which helps people affected with different forms of the disease, including bone cancers which often receive little attention.
Jackson, who has also started coaching at Glasgow Accies, told the Press and Journal he was determined to put something back into the grassroots game and was committed to helping charitable ventures in the future, which explains why he will be saddling up with his colleagues for the gruelling venture on August 21.
He said: “We will be starting in Campbeltown and finishing up at Highland RFC in Inverness and, hopefully, once we arrive, we can meet up with some fans and maybe watch the Pro-14 match between Glasgow and Edinburgh [at Murrayfield].
“We are aiming to raise £5,000, but we would obviously love to raise more and we are thinking of ways to spread the word and bring the rugby community together.
“I think everybody has been inspired by how Doddie has responded to being told he has MND and we want to show him how his example has given succour to so many others.
“I also want to back the efforts of the people involved with Unite Against Cancer, because they are doing a terrific job, but not getting much publicity.
“I know that some people were a bit surprised when I retired back in May, and I am aware that other players [such as Greig Laidlaw] are continuing their careers abroad.
“But I run a business with Ryan, my wife is expecting her first child, and I didn’t fancy uprooting at this stage of my career, so it seemed the right time to bow out.
“I love rugby and I have been fortunate to have played for 14 years in the professional game. But now, I am excited about getting involved off the pitch and it’s great I am getting the opportunity to visit places such as Highland RFC, who are a forward-thinking progressive club who have made positive strides forward in recent years.”
Jackson admitted that rugby still faces challenges before any semblance of normal competition can resume, although he believes none of them are insurmountable.
He is confident the Pro-14 tournament will return next month, albeit in empty stadiums, but reckons club matches are unlikely to be played before October.
He said: “In Scotland, we have definitely seen signs of progress in tackling Covid-19, with a reducing number of cases, but we always have to be cautious going forward.
“Rugby has more contact situations that sports such as cricket and football, so we will have to see how the protocols work for such aspects of the game as scrums and line-outs where there is no way to avoid the participants being at close quarters.
“It’s also true that you can’t just rush back into playing. It’s a physical game, with lots of big hits, so clubs will have to prepare properly and train for the right amount of time.
“If things keep improving, I’ll find out for myself what the timetable might be for the grassroots getting back to action when we arrive at Highland. It’s likely there will still be lots of social distancing and it is not a normal situation for anybody. But sport is gradually emerging from lockdown and rugby is clearly a big part of that process.”
The 33-times-capped Scot even hinted at pulling on a jersey again for Accies whenever the domestic club programme gains the green light.
He said: “I won’t miss the training sessions which were part of life as a pro. Or the stresses which are involved in performing at the very highest level.
“But if there’s the chance for me to turn out for Accies next season, I am definitely interested. First things first, though…it’s time for me to get on my bike!”
Further details about the Caledonian Way Cycling Challenge are available at https://www.gofundme.com/f/cycling-the-caledonian-way?utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link-tip