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'Fantastic summer' keeps getting better following Test debut against Springboks

WHICH is easier to get:

READY TO DELIVER: Glasgow Warriors' Adam Ashe looks ahead to the forthcoming season.  Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS
READY TO DELIVER: Glasgow Warriors' Adam Ashe looks ahead to the forthcoming season. Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS

a Scotland cap or a club contract. Looking at Adam Ashe it certainly looks as though getting the rugby authorities to sign on the dotted line is the tougher task.

Ashe made his Test debut against South Africa in June and it is only this week that it has been followed up with a full-time deal - and for only a year. He may have been capped but now he has to prove he has what it takes to make it as a club player.

He was able to walk into a place in the national team when he was recalled from a summer training camp in New Zealand but, to hold down a place at No.8, his specialist role, in the Glasgow team, Ashe is going to have to fight off some intense competition.

"It is unbelievably hard," the 21-year-old admitted. "You have the likes of Ryan Wilson and Josh Strauss as competition in my specialist role. One [Strauss] is a Super Rugby captain and the other has had his fair share of caps for Scotland. I am going to have to be at the top of my game every week, in training as well, to get myself that opportunity."

Which does rather beg the question of how Vern Cotter and the rest of the national coaching panel found themselves in the position of needing a player who had played only one match off the bench after an injury ravaged season to start against the second-ranked team in the world?

With the match being played outside the international window and the clubs in England and France refusing to release players, the Scottish coaches had no choice other than to gamble on all the home-based players being fit. Predictably, the gamble failed when David Denton went down with concussion and they were left in a desperate position.

Which is not to say that Ashe did not warrant the faith placed in him. He had come through the under 20 set-up, looking a star in the making and Gregor Townsend, the Glasgow coach, had made it clear that but for a recurring hamstring problem he would have played a key part in the club season and would have had his chances during the last campaign.

What he needed was game time and he got that on the McPhail Scholarship, which paid for him to spend the summer training and playing in Christchurch. It is a proven breeding ground for leading players of the future - Grant Gilchrist, who captained Scotland in South Africa, was a previous beneficiary of the scholarship.

Still, the gulf between playing for Canterbury University in its local league and playing for Scotland against South Africa is huge, and while Ashe had a decent enough match, he admits it was something of a lesson.

"It was a really tough, physical encounter," he said. "It showed that I really need to emphasise the physical side of my game and I have done a lot of gym work to develop my power and size."

Despite his first cap, Ashe still left South Africa heading in the opposite direction to the rest of the squad - while they were on their way home, he went back to New Zealand to complete the programme and came back to Scotland only last week with his future still to be decided.

"The deal wasn't something that came on the back of the cap, it was something they were talking about before I left," Ashe said. "But nothing had been confirmed.

"Then the trip to New Zealand came, and it could not be finalised until I was back. I was hoping to get some good game time over there and, if all went well after all the hamstring problems I had last year, I could hope for more. Now, I've signed the one-year deal, and I aim to put in some good games and some good performances to put my hand up for a starting spot at the club.

"Signing the contract did feel a bit strange but this is always where I wanted to stay. This is where my heart is and where I want to make an impact.

"I have had a fantastic summer: New Zealand, South Africa and then coming back here, and good news when I got here that I am staying another year.

"Everything is going well. I am feeling good and fit, so I hope it can all continue in the same way."

n Cardiff Blues have announced that Owen Williams is making "positive progress" as he continues his recovery from the serious neck injury sustained last month.

The Wales centre has spent the last three weeks at the Welsh Spinal Injuries and Neurological Rehabilitation Unit at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff. In an encouraging update, it was revealed that Williams has improved function in both of his upper limbs, although remains on enforced bed rest.

"Owen will be progressing to sitting up over the coming few weeks," a Blues statement read. "While it's still early days in his recovery, Owen remains positive and overwhelmed by the messages of support from around the world.

Williams suffered a significant injury to his cervical vertebrae and spinal cord that required surgery during the inaugural World Club 10s competition in Singapore.

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