IT has been a big year for Murphy Walker, who has gone from an academy player who was facing an uncertain future if not offered a full-time deal by Glasgow Warriors at the end of the 2021-22 season, to becoming a Scotland internationalist during the recent Autumn Test series despite being able to count the number of professional games of rugby he has played with the fingers of his two hands.

But the 23-year-old prop – who made his international debut off the bench against Fiji last month – has no plans to slow down and enjoy the moment, with his club entering a crucial phase of their season.

Warriors head to Italy on Saturday hoping to break their run of 10 United Rugby Championship losses on the road against bottom of the table Zebre. It is a must-win game if they want to be serious contenders for the play-offs and Champions Cup qualification this season.

Franco Smith’s side then play Bath away and Perpignan at home in the European Challenge Cup, followed by their traditional 1872 Cup double-header against Edinburgh over Christmas and New Year.

Walker is desperate to do well for the club, but also push his own case for further international honours when the Six Nations kicks-off at the start of February.

“It is quite strange looking back to six or eight months ago when I was struggling to get any game-time, and how it has just happened so quickly,” he said. “When you are an academy boy or one of the younger players in the squad, you don’t think you are going to get your opportunity, but then, all of a sudden, you play a run of games, go on tour with Scotland in the summer and get capped in the Autumn!”

Walker’s meteoric rise is even more impressive because he missed all of the 2020-21 season with a ruptured hamstring, and he pays tribute to former Warriors head coach Danny Wilson for showing faith in him despite his missing that crucial development year.

“I was very fortunate that Danny backed me after my injury,” he said. “He saw something in me, which I am glad he did, because it could easily have gone the other way meaning I would be away from this club doing who knows what.

“After that injury, if you had told me that in three years’ time I would be playing for Scotland, I would have thought you are joking,” he added.  “The way I had it mentally was that I’d focus on each week, so if I trained well I would get picked, and if I played well then I would keep getting picked, and if I keep getting picked then I would be in the frame for the summer tour, which is obviously what happened.

“I didn’t get capped then, but that became my next focus in rugby – to get capped – so it was all about just playing well at the weekend and letting the rest take care of itself.

Remarkably, Walker has only played nine matches for Warriors, but realises that he now has an extra responsibility within the squad as one of the club’s capped players.

“There wasn’t just one significant, key takeaway,” he replied, when asked about what he took from being involved with the Scotland squad throughout the Autumn. “”It was more about all the small things to do with professional mannerisms and stuff.

“In terms of quality of training and intensity, everything is just on another level, and it is unbelievable to be involved in. Being around that culture and that environment is so good – it is what you want to be involved in the whole time.

“Speaking to Franco, it is now about bringing that environment into the club and trying to make it seamless, so that when boys go into national camp and then come back here there is no drop off. That is what we are trying to breed here.”

“I don’t feel like a senior player but being an internationalist does mean I’ve got a bit more onus on my shoulders in terms of trying to set an example,” he added. “So, I don’t think the way I speak or interact with boys has changed, I’m just trying to step up a little bit in terms of taking a lead and helping the younger boys out.

“I’m just trying to keep doing what I’m doing, because that is why I got rewarded in the first place.”

Saturday’s match should be a fairly straight forward win if Glasgow are serious about being a play-off team this season, but a big question mark about whether the team can produce a winning performance on the road still hangs over the squad.

“Last week was frustrating because we had so many opportunities, and if we had our chance again we would definitely make different choices and probably come out better on the scoreboard,” concluded Walker.

“Zebre is a must-win, and I’m sure we will win because we’ve had a great training week so far. The boys are really up for it and after the review of last weekend’s game, we are pretty clear on what we need to do to get that away game monkey off our back.”