IN the aftermath of Scotland’s exit from the World Cup this summer, Stuart McInally admits he didn’t want to think about rugby ever again.

The 29-year-old had suffered one of the most crushing of disappointments of his life when, as captain, he was at the helm as Scotland crashed out of the World Cup in Japan with losses firstly to Ireland, and then the hosts.

But the Edinburgh Rugby hooker has had a transformation in his attitude thanks to a six-week break following Scotland’s defeat to Japan this summer, making his first appearance of the season against Munster three weeks ago. And McInally admits himself that being back in the club environment is just what he needs after his World Cup experience.


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“It is amazing - you go from after the World Cup never wanting to think about rugby ever again to coming back to Edinburgh and getting back with your mates you play every day with,” he said.

“The week of the Munster game, I was buzzing to get back out there. That showed to me the importance of having that rest.”

Japan was McInally’s first taste of World Cup competition. But things could not have gotten off to a worse start with the Scots being battered 27-3 by Ireland in their opening game. It was, admits McInally, a devastating result.

“You do two months or more of prep effectively for one game,” he said of the build-up to the World Cup.

“We were so desperate to do well in the game and then to play so poorly was the hardest part because you do all that training and then think ‘what is going on?’ - it hit me pretty hard and was a big learning curve.

“The big disappointment came from the Ireland game when we expected a lot more of ourselves.”

A win against Samoa helped the recovery from the Ireland defeat but a loss to Japan, for which McInally was dropped to the bench, ended the Scots’ campaign at the group stages.

The six-week break McInally was afforded post-Japan was badly needed. From there, he travelled to Australia with his wife and being well away from the Scottish bubble was, he says, quite a relief.

“At the World Cup, I played four games – played two and on the bench for two and then World Cup warm-up games, I played a couple so physically I was fine. But it was the mental strain of not just the World Cup but also the 8, 10 weeks of training previous to that, that’s why I needed a bit of time to breathe and not think about strategies and practicing my throwing every day and stuff like that,” he said.


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“It did help (being on the other side of the world). I turned the phone off, turned social media off and just enjoyed time with family. The World Cup was such a big media thing, of course it is, it’s massive and you can’t avoid it.

“Even if you don’t read the press, you’re on social media and someone will have retweeted something and so you see everything. So it was really nice to go out and not have to worry about having a glass of wine with your meal and just enjoy yourself.”

Prior to his return to Edinburgh, McInally had a number of conversations with head coach Richard Cockerill, himself an England international, who shared his own experiences – and mistakes he made – during his time as a player.

And so McInally heads into a vital couple of weeks for Edinburgh with a brace of games against their old rivals, Glasgow Warriors, coming up over the next two weekends, revitalised and ready to go.

He may have a wealth of experience behind him but the World Cup proved a vital learning experience and has, he hopes, improved him as a player and a captain.

“The main thing I learned is that the team perform best when the team does it’s own job,” he said.

“The prime example was the Samoa game when we all concentrated on doing our job well, whether that was me throwing in well or scrummaging or the backs finishing well. Everybody did their own job.

“You can complicate rugby at times and you can complicate leadership. If everybody focuses on doing their own job well and maintaining high standards, it goes a long way.

“But (as captain) you kind of think that, ‘ I am captain, I need to do more. I need to be in charge of so many different things, ultimately I am accountable.’

“I have to be playing well though. That is the only thing that matters in my opinion and I can lead off the back of that.”


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Edinburgh head into the first leg of the 1872 Cup on Saturday as favourites. They have shown better league form than Warriors and are unbeaten in the Challenge Cup, although Glasgow are facing stiffer European competition in the Champions Cup.

For McInally, the weekend will prove a stern personal test too, as he will be up against his Scotland teammate, Fraser Brown. The pair grew up playing schoolboys rugby against each other and while McInally is under no illusions as to how tough a test matching Brown will be, he is relishing the battle.

“Fraz is such a great player, he’s a very good scrummager, a very good line-out thrower and excellent over ball so it’s going to be a great challenge,” he said.

“I have a really good relationship with Fraz – even since the World Cup, we’ve met up for coffee. We’re good mates and I’m looking forward to catching up with him after the game.

“At the same time, it’ll be a good test for me to see where I’m at this moment in time. It’s always a good battle – I think he was injured this time last year so we didn’t go against each other but the year before, it was great.

“He’s ruthless on the pitch. He’s an excellent player and someone I’ve got so much respect for. He works so hard and I know he cares a lot about Glasgow and he’s a big voice in the changing room so it’ll be a great challenge.”