IF George Turner wins his 20th Scotland cap against Japan on Saturday, it will be just the latest chapter in a career that has gone from strength to strength in recent years. But for long enough, the hooker’s story was one that looked like never getting started at all.

In several seasons with Edinburgh from 2011, Turner, now 29, made just a dozen appearances, almost all of them off the bench. It was - and remains - an inexplicable under-use of a clearly talented player. A less highly-motivated individual might well have quit the game at that point, but Turner persevered, and when the chance to move to Glasgow came up, he took it.

Initially on loan, and then full-time from 2017, the front-row forward quickly flourished at Scotstoun. Looking back on the move this week, Turner credited one man with being primarily responsible for resurrecting his career: Dave Rennie, then the Warriors head coach, now in charge of the Wallabies team who Scotland beat two weekends ago.

“I got given the choice to stay at Edinburgh or move to Glasgow, and it took a while, but eventually I thought I needed a change,” Turner reflected. “I knew it could be better, but also that it could be worse. But I got lucky and there were a couple of injuries and then Dave Rennie and [assistant coach] Jon Humphreys came in and liked what they saw, so I got to play a lot of games. 

“They were good to me. You have to be patient, because there are a lot of good players out there. But I knew I could play and I could compete, and I just needed to take my opportunities.

“Any love at all was more than I was getting at Edinburgh. My game's a bit physical, a bit blunt, a bit direct, and although [Rennie had] good players he really likes the brutality. It's a contact sport, so you've got to bring a bit of that. 

“He enjoyed that part about me. So it was nice to get the love.”

Turner was able to catch up briefly with Rennie at the end of the game against Australia - a match in which he injured a rib early in the first half, forcing him out of last week’s loss to South Africa. We will find out at lunchtime today if he is back in the squad to play Japan, but whether he is in the 23 or not, he is set to be in and around the national team for several years to come. 

Having said that, Turner is well aware that he cannot rest on his laurels. With Stuart McInally long established in the squad, Ewan Ashman having made a scoring debut against the Australians, and Fraser Brown on his way back from injury, there is a lot of competition there: a fact which has persuaded Turner that he will need to keep improving if he is to challenge consistently for a place. 

“Just in general because the rules keep changing, and the style of game keeps changing,” he explained when asked what sort of improvement he had in mind. “It's not like I'm going to be working on my kicking or anything. But there's always little tricks that you see people do, and I want to be able to get on top of my fitness so I can perform well.” 

Having thrived after years of adversity, Turner is not one of those players who need to be cajoled by coaches or colleagues into putting on his best performance. And so, while the Japan game may not be quite as big an occasion as the previous Tests against teams in the world’s top three, he will treat the match with the same seriousness and intensity as he would give to any other international.

“I don't think you have to be managed by the coaches,” he insisted. “Just playing back at Murrayfield in front of a full stadium and just playing for Scotland is motivation enough no matter who you are playing. It's a massive occasion, because you know how lucky you are, and how special it is. For some players it's an opportunity, or they've been given a chance, but for me every time in a Scotland strip is motivation enough.”