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De Luca joins reinforcements as Scots limp into Buenos Aires

THE Americans call it bouncebackability; the capacity of a player to run into trouble but find a way not just to recover but use adversity to his advantage.

Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw 'leads out' team-mates on their arrival at Edinburgh Airport after completing the first part of their summer tour of the Americas and South Africa. Some of the squad will play a full part in the trip having travelled on to Argentina where they will meet up  with the new arrivals. Picture: SNS
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw 'leads out' team-mates on their arrival at Edinburgh Airport after completing the first part of their summer tour of the Americas and South Africa. Some of the squad will play a full part in the trip having travelled on to Argentina where they will meet up with the new arrivals. Picture: SNS

In Nick De Luca, Scotland has its own expert in the phenomenon. After experiencing his latest bounce back after a surprise call-up to the Scotland squad on tour in South America, he is determined to make it work for him again.

De Luca has been one of the more controversial selections in the Scotland side, moments of brilliance, powerful tackling and an ability to wriggle through tiny gaps being undermined by bouts of boneheaded stupidity and at least one moment when he seemed to lose his head completely.

But, and it is a big but, every time Scotland coaches have felt they could do without him, they have been forced to bring him back. His latest chance is ultimately the result of the calf injury to Alex Dunbar in the RaboDirect Pro12 final, and he accepts that means he still has it all to do, but after four months in the wilderness he is delighted to be offered a sliver of hope.

"I am just grateful for the opportunity to work under the new coach and put my hand up," he said. I didn't have that opportunity before and things were looking a bit bleak for me in terms of who was going and who was being left out.

"I still see myself as being way down in the pecking order but I have been given this opportunity and would like to think I am good at taking these things. Fingers crossed."

De Luca, in fact, got enough warning to be able to link with the rest of the squad that had been training under Jonathan Humphreys and Duncan Hodge, the assistant coaches, back in Scotland and take the same transatlantic flight. The home-based group were then joined by the remnants of the side that has been on duty in North America.

Injuries from last weekend's game in Toronto have forced a late change of plans. While Vern Cotter, the head coach, had intended to ask Kelly Brown and Alasdair Strokosch to stay on and provide a bit of experience for Friday night's game against Argentina, they are both hurt - Brown with a torn biceps muscle and Strokosch with the after-effects of the blow to the neck that put him in hospital, though happily the damage turned out not to be too serious. Kieran Low and Blair Cowan are taking their places but since both are at London Irish, neither will be available for the final match.

Johnnie Beattie and Ruaridh Jackson, the other players hurt during the Canada game are also heading home but in their cases that was always planned.

For De Luca, it was a huge change in fortune after getting the dreaded phone call from Scott Johnson in May to say he was not in the squad at all.

"I was well aware that I was not included. It is never nice," he rcalled. "You usually get an email to say your are in so if you get a phone call, you know it is not good news. Unless I was going to be named captain - which I was pretty sure was not going to he happening.

"It is never a nice experience - it has happened to me a few times in my career. Bouncebackability has been a feature of my life so hopefully I can show that resilience again. I am by no means seeing myself as in; I am getting this opportunity through injuries and injuries alone. Now, I need to make sure that the next time they come to pick a squad I have a genuinely deserved position regardless of injuries. I have nothing to prove to myself. I know how good I am and what I am capable of."

There is still an underlying sense of injustice at the way he was treated latterly at Edinburgh, effectively frozen out of the team since March and denied the chance to put in an acknowledged final appearance and say goodbye to the fans who have backed him during his seven years at the club, with his appearance at the Glasgow Sevens having to make up.

"I was grateful to have the opportunity to play sevens; at least it was a farewell to the country," he said. "Edinburgh were not kind enough to give me that. They talked about the big farewell to Greig [Laidlaw] on his swansong for the club but there are a few of us who have been there as long and done as much so that was a shame.

"It does mean I am fresh. I'm fine, I felt that in the sevens. I was lucky enough to have good training with the back-up staff at Edinburgh, the conditioning staff were excellent and looked after the non-23. To be looked after again with the sevens and now here - the quality is fantastic - means I am feeling good, feeling sharp and I hope I can show that on the pitch and not be too rusty."

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