Murray McCallum was 21 years old when he made his international debut against Wales at the start of the 2018 Six Nations and he had just turned 22 by the time he picked up two more Scotland appearances against Canada and the USA that summer. In a position where you are not supposed to start reaching your peak until you are closing in on 30, the Fife-born tight-head prop was on a roll – but then he hit the buffers. 

He wore the No3 jersey for Edinburgh in their next three games following his Scotland debut but dropped out of the side when WP Nel and Simon Berghan returned from Six Nations duty and managed only four more starts in three years until his contract ran out at the end of last season. 

It was a bad time to be out of work, but McCallum was handed the lifeline of a short-term contract until the end of this calendar year by Glasgow Warriors, and now he is determined to prove Danny Wilson right (and his old Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill wrong) by making the absolute most of this chance to resurrect his career – even if past experience has taught him not to look too far ahead. 

“We’ll see what the boys upstairs think after a few games,” he shrugs. “I could be here for the year, I could be elsewhere, we’ll just have to wait and see. But my focus at the moment is on these six months and however many opportunities I get.” 

McCallum played alongside Zander Fagerson at Strathallan School and for Scotland Under-20s, meaning he was often deployed at loose-head prop instead of his preferred position of tight-head in order to get both players in the team, so he knows first-hand how tough it is going to be competing for the Warriors No 3 jersey against this summer’s British and Irish Lions tourist. 

Meanwhile, Simon Berghan, who was one of the tight-heads in front of him at Edinburgh, has also made the switch east to west this summer, so he knows a fair bit about him too. 

And he won’t be under-estimating the ability of Argentinean prop Enrique Pieretto or academy prospect Murphy Walker – another Strathallan old boy who is fit again after missing last season with a ruptured hamstring – either. 

Even with Fagerson not due back from his post-Lions sabbatical until late next month, and Pieretto away with Pumas at the Rugby Championship for the next few weeks, competition for game-time is going to be fairly ferocious from the get-go, but McCallum says he is okay with that because he believes that he will, at least, get a fair crack at the whip – which wasn’t always the case at Edinburgh.  

“It was the first time I’d been in a shit fight with other players and there were some times when I was frustrated and I maybe didn’t know how to handle it,” he says, reflecting on his wilderness years in the capital. “I thought I was doing everything I could, but who knows? Sometimes it’s your word against the coach’s and at the end of the day he picks the team. Sometimes I struggled to deal with that. 

“It did get a bit twitchy at times, particularly in the Covid era when clubs are a bit more strapped for cash and are maybe trimming back squad sizes. It’s a case of who’s got space or who needs someone like me? And lucky enough it was Glasgow who came in for me, who are in the Champions Cup this year, and who have made some really exciting signings and have two Lions boys coming back.” 

“So, I’ve got an opportunity here after landing on my feet to assert myself on the big stage. With Zander and Enrique coming back soon, and Simon here as well, they are three top class internationals that I get to push with, under a new coach in a new environment. 

“I need to focus on my game and not worry about anything else apart from what the coaches want me to do. Danny has been quite clear in what he wants me to do and that helps me massively. He knows what my strengths are, what I need to work on and what he wants me to bring to the squad. 

“It’s about having that love to learn again – and that’s been reinvigorated by joining Glasgow. 

“You can get into a rut where you’re only playing once in a while and put so much pressure on yourself that you almost forget what you should be doing because you’re so focused on trying to get picked for the next game. I just need to sack that and focus on the game I’m playing in.  

“I’d hope time is on my side at 25. I certainly don’t think I’ve cracked it. I might not have cracked it at 35!”