AT 6ft 1ins and about 17st 5lbs, Matt Fagerson would be described as a “strapping lad” in almost every other walk of life, but he operates in the land of giants so has had to get used to questions being asked and doubts expressed about whether he is big enough to cut it as a No.8 in international rugby.

Rather than try to argue his case, the 24-year-old has focused instead on doing his talking on the park, and he can now point out that his recent rich seam of form has come from ignoring the theory that bigger is better and opting instead to shed some weight.

“Being small is something people have thought about me throughout my whole career, but you look at the best No.8s in the world at the moment... I don’t know how big Caelan Doris [Fagerson’s likely opposite number when Scotland take on Ireland this Sunday] is, but I can’t imagine he’s any heavier than I am,” he says.

“Being a No.8 these days is not just about being 6ft 4ins and a straight ball carrier that it probably used to be. There is a lot more to the game now than that.”

Fagerson’s contribution to Scotland’s promising Guinness Six Nations campaign to date can be illustrated by a couple of stats. His 56 tackles is the second most of any player in the tournament, just behind the 58 of Frenchman Thibauld Flament. And he’s carried the ball 26 times, which is the third most of any Scottish player, behind Finn Russell (the top carrier in the tournament) and Pierre Schoeman.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve come on leaps and bounds or anything this year – but I’ve definitely improved, and I know what value I can bring to the team,” he reasons. “My physique is something I’ve really focused on over the past two or three years, trying to find my best playing weight.

“I’ve actually dropped quite a few kilos since the start of the season, and I think I’m in a pretty good place at the moment. I’m lasting longer in games and contributing more in the latter part of games.”

The No.8 faces his biggest challenge yet on Sunday, when he is expected to face-off against Doris – who is cut from the same cloth and produced even equally impressive stats in recent weeks, with 41 carries (joint second most in the tournament) for 206 metres-made (the most of any forward).

“He’s a quality player,” acknowledges Fagerson. “I played against him at under-20s level a few years back and he was quality back then as well. He has come on leaps and bounds in the last two years, playing consistently well for Leinster and Ireland.

“He has a great skillset, and he carries really hard. He’s also a clever player in what he does at the breakdown and around the tackle area. So, it’s pretty exciting to go up against him.”

Of course, that duel won’t happen in isolation, and Fagerson believes his playing relationship with fellow back-rowers Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson can be key to taking the game to Ireland.

“If you play with people a lot, it helps,” he explains. “Jamie and Hamish play together at Edinburgh, and I’ve played a lot with Jamie over the last two or three years. We feed off each other and we know what each other can bring to a game.

“Jamie’s phenomenal over the ball and a real leader, while Hamish is a British and Irish Lion, phenomenal over the ball as well and a great defender. They both bring so much energy and also a really cool, calm heads.

“The cohesion in the back-row is something that was probably lacking a couple of years ago and leading into the last World Cup, but we’ve managed to build a good rapport and relationship.”

“I think this is probably the

biggest game I’ll have played for Scotland,” he adds. “We’ve got the world number one side coming to Murrayfield and that’s all our focus is on.

“It’s about managing what they bring, but also making sure we deliver the things we are good at.

“If you feed them the ball, they have massive attacking threats in

the back three and at No.8, so

those guys will make it a tough

day at the office if you give them

half a chance.

“We have to manage that well through kicking smart and chasing hard to trap them in certain areas.

“Being strong in defence is the biggest thing because when they get on the front-foot they are pretty hard to stop.

“It is a huge challenge for us and one that this squad is really excited to go up against.”

The teams for Sunday’s eagerly anticipated Six Nations round four clash will be announced at lunchtime today.