George Turner began the year as the third cab on Scotland’s hooker rank but will end it as the man who played every game but one.
The Glasgow No 2 is set to regain his starting place against Japan having missed the South Africa test after a rib injury that wasn’t as bad as it first appeared. 2021 has been a real breakthrough for him, playing in the big wins over England and Paris.
‘A really positive year’
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“It has been a really positive year,” said the 29-year-old. “I hadn’t played much for Glasgow at the start of the year, but then Six Nations came around and I started well and felt like I carried my form to the end of the season.
“There were a couple of injuries at the start of this season but in general it has been a good year for me. I know I can kick on and can push on even further, I am looking forward to getting back playing.”
It still beggars belief that Turner didn’t even get a sniff at Edinburgh in five years there. The move to Glasgow and Dave Rennie – now Australia coach – taking a shine to him unquestionably changed his career.
“I got given the choice to stay at Edinburgh or move to Glasgow,” he recalled. “It took a while but eventually I thought I needed a change.
“I knew it could be better, but also that it could be worse. But I got lucky and there were a couple of injuries and then Dave Rennie and Jon Humphreys came in and liked what they saw.
“They were good to me. Really, any love at all was more than I was getting at Edinburgh.
‘Bit physical, bit blunt, bit direct’
“My game’s a bit physical, a bit blunt, a bit direct, and although Dave has good players he really likes the brutality.
“It’s a contact sport so you’ve got to bring a bit of that. He enjoyed that part about me. So it was nice to get the love.”
He always had Scotland aspirations, but he doesn’t have any jealousy for those like clubmate Jamie Dobie and Rufus McLean who end up with caps at just past 20.
“It’s more that I see it as a new, positive thing,” he said. “That shows a faith in young players, in giving them chances.
“In my time it was a bit harder for younger players, especially 20-year-olds. Just (Stuart) Hoggy and Jonny Gray and maybe a couple of other young guys got in. There weren’t too many young boys getting capped.
“For me personally it was more about having a few years not playing being not great for me. But I’ll hopefully be able to put those years on the end and keep going by not being too battered.”
A strong end to a good year
As for Japan, the Scots are just hoping to finish off a strong year well.
“The boys have just had a big physical game, a really tough game,” he said. “There’s been a really big focus for the last couple of games on bringing energy, testing the training team and the starting team.
“But just playing back at Murrayfield in front of a full stadium, playing for Scotland is motivation enough no matter who you are playing.
“It’s a massive occasion because you know how lucky you are, and how special it is. For some players it’s an opportunity, or they’ve been given a chance. But for me every time in a Scotland strip is motivation enough.
“We just want to focus on ourselves this week, to right any wrongs and make sure we score some points. I don’t think the boys are thinking about what Ireland did (to Japan). We’re just looking for a good end to the year.”