Stuart McInally is delighted the gamble he took in switching from flanker to hooker five years ago has finally paid off after being named Scotland skipper.
The Edinburgh forward will lead his country during their summer tour of Canada, the United States and Argentina in the absence of regular captain John Barclay.
Yet the 27-year-old knows that was an unlikely prospect back in 2013 with his career floundering in the back-row.
The decision to move to hooker was not without risk and McInally admits the journey has since has been filled with up and downs.
But a year on from not even making the squad which toured Asia-Pacific, he has now been handed the Dark Blues’ top honour by coach Gregor Townsend, leaving McInally to revel in the sweet taste of vindication.
“It’s definitely the pinnacle of my career,” said the man who has arguably been Scottish rugby’s top performer over the past 12 months. I didn’t think it would ever happen but the way this season has gone, and the players who are not going on tour, created an opportunity for me to do it. I’m really excited about the challenge.
“It’s just been a whirlwind year in terms of not playing at all for Scotland last year to playing as much as I have this year. It’s been great, a big honour.
“It feels so long ago that I was a back-rower. Of course I had doubts about moving. I’d be lying if I said I was confident the whole time.
“But I feel that I’m firmly a hooker now, which is great, especially as for the first few years it wasn’t that. I was very much a convert and everyone gave me that tag. Now I just feel I’m a hooker and that just makes the tough times learning how to scrum worth it. I remember getting my face planted down in the mud back at Edinburgh and getting dragged backwards. I was thinking, ‘What the hell have I done here?’
“But the way this year has gone and looking ahead to the tour has made it all worthwhile.”
Initially McInally was only due to stand in as captain for this summer’s action but the Achilles tendon rupture suffered by Barclay could potentially see him hold on to the role into the autumn.
But the new man in charge will resist the urge to alter the way things have run under his predecessor too much.
He said: “I’m not going to change too much with being captain. I probably made that mistake in the past. You overthink things and it affects your performance.
“The best captains I’ve been under were always the guys who played best. I never really remember what people say.
“I’m gutted for John. It’s horrible what’s happened to him. I had a good chat with him before I came here. I want to make sure there is some continuity to what he was doing.”
Meanwhile, lock Richie Gray will miss the Americas tour through injury.
The former British & Irish Lion sustained a hip injury and will now remain in France to work on his recovery with club side Toulouse’s medical staff.
The Scottish Rugby Union have confirmed no replacement will be called up. Townsend already has the Edinburgh trio of Lewis Carmichael Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis as well as Glasgow’s Tim Swinson for second row options.