Uni No 8 Adam Ashe savours Scotland call-up
Adam Ashe's route into the Scotland test team has been extremely unconventional.
Last month Ashe was pondering his next University club match when told that new Scotland coach Vern Cotter wanted to test his mettle against the Springboks.
The uncapped number eight is attending Canterbury Rugby Football Union's international high performance unit (IHPU) on a scholarship arranged by the Scottish union. He hasn't started for his Glasgow Warriors side but it didn't prevent former Crusaders assistant coach Cotter taking a punt.
The first Ashe, 20, knew about Cotter's plans was when Glasgow assistant coach Kenny Murray, also attending the IHPU to up-skill his coaching portfolio, told him an outing against the Springboks in Durban on June 29 was probable.
A follow-up call from Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend confirmed the news.
Ashe's thoughts switched from playing a metro division-one match against Burnside at Ilam to confronting a South African back row of Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger and Marcell Coetzee in front of almost 50,000 fans in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
''It was a fair step-up,'' said Ashe, a man not unafraid to deliver an understatement.
''Obviously the physicality of the South Africans was a really big ask but I would like to think the state of rugby here is really open and you do cover a lot of ground when you play club footy.
''I didn't feel unfit, it was more just the impacts I was getting which were quite a bit harder.''
Ashe played the full match as the under-strength Scots, who started six uncapped players, succumbed 55-6 after trailing 19-6 at halftime.
When asked about the chances of being involved in Scotland's next matches against the All Blacks in Edinburgh on November 15, the Six Nations tournament and next year's World Cup, Ashe diverted the conversation to his short-term goals.
When he returns home later this month, having completed his 15-week scholarship, he aims to nail down a starting spot with Glasgow and play alongside former Crusader and Scotland wing Sean Maitland who is also in the club's squad.
''It was a bit of a surprise, I didn't really expect it,'' Ashe said in reference to his test debut. ''But it's nice it came around this quick.''
A national age-group player who played in last year's Junior World Cup in France, Ashe has used the scholarship to build himself back to peak fitness after suffering four hamstring tears.
During his stay he has boarded with a family near the IHPU's base at Rugby Park.
Canterbury assistant coach Jason Holland is Ashe's main point of contact during training sessions, while head coach Scott Robertson and another assistant, Scott Hansen, also offer guidance.
Former All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne has also mentored him and reviews his University games.
''He doesn't say a lot but when he does it hits home,'' Ashe says.
''He's been in most weeks to go over my game from the weekend or to do a session. That's pretty good footage, so we usually talk through the clips when we watch things like the contact area."