IT’S fair to say that Rory Sutherland had a somewhat unorthodox journey to becoming an international rugby player.

The prop is not one of those players who always seemed destined to play rugby for his country; in fact, it wasn’t too long ago it appeared his future was as an engineer rather than a rugby player.

A borders man, Sutherland was always steeped in rugby and even represented Scotland at age-group level. But when he began an electrical and mechanical engineering apprenticeship after he left school at the age of fifteen, his priorities changed.

Before he knew it, he was missing matches and training sessions as a result of his job and with a baby on the way, Sutherland’s focus was building a career as an engineer.

However, a move to play for Gala, under the tutelage of George Graham changed everything for the Hawick man. And it is the former internationalist who Sutherland admits he owes much of his current success to.

“He is a good man and a good coach,” the 27-year-old said of Graham.

“He taught me a lot, not just in the scrum, but the mentality and how to bring it into games. He was big on taking confidence in and that belief that you could win. When you’re breathing that in at training, come the Saturday we were always in a good frame of mind to play the games.”

Graham helped develop Sutherland’s game to such an extent that just a year later, he caught the eye of then Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons and signed for the capital club.

In early 2016, Sutherland won his first cap for Scotland and it seemed that moving away from engineering and focusing his energies on rugby had paid off. However, as happens so often in elite sport, an almighty obstacle was about to present itself to Sutherland.

A seemingly innocuous sprint in during a warm-up caused an injury that saw him bed-bound for three months, unable to move. The prop had ripped both his adductors off the bone so had to get them reattached and screwed into the bone again in a bilateral groin reconstruction.

For some, that would have spelled the end, but even in his darkest days, not once did Sutherland consider hanging up his boots. Although he admits it was not an easy time.

“Giving it up wouldn’t have been an option. I would only have stopped if I had to,” he said.

“I would never have given up trying to get back to playing rugby. But when I went through that time of my life it was very hard to wake up every day and have that drive to want to play again. It was a lengthy old process.

“A really long rehab period of teaching my body the mechanics of walking, running again. Doing all those things and then a slow transition into being able to train to play again.”

Sutherland made it back to first team rugby though, and despite limited game time this season, did enough to gain selection for this year’s Six Nations.

He was in the starting fifteen last weekend in Dublin for Scotland’s loss to Ireland and put in a solid performance, although he admits that there was a few nerves prior to kick-off.

“I was (nervous), I’m not going to lie,” he said.

“I was a little bit worried that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with the pace of the game. But we’ve done a lot of work at Edinburgh as well off the field with fitness, when you’re not playing you do the little extras. That would have helped as well. I’m really happy with the way I went on Saturday.”

Despite Scotland’s loss, Sutherland’s display at the Aviva Stadium has given himself every chance of being selected by Gregor Townsend to face England this weekend.

And if he makes the cut, it will be quite a weekend for the prop as it would be his first cap at Murrayfield, as well as his first time facing England.

“It’ll mean a lot to me,” he said.

“Being back and getting to play in that blue jersey again means a lot to me. When I was going through those tough times, imagining being where I am now helped to get me through.

“Having those positive thoughts of ‘well, it can happen again if I put the work in’ and take it day by day, do the gym work, do the rehab, do the coming back into rugby slowly.

“It’s worked, so I’m really happy to be back where I am now.”