Fagerson ready to roar with the Lions
Now established as one of the premier tight-heads in the northern hemisphere, it’s safe to say that Zander Fagerson has come a long way from his school days.
then, he made the back-row of the scrum his home rather than the front.
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“I was 135kg and just carrying at people in my final year, and I also had George Horne and Jamie Ritchie in the team so it was a bit of an armchair ride for me!” grinned the prop.
“Andrew Henderson was a major influence on me – he was my first team coach at Strathallan, and he gave me the belief that I could make it as a professional player. He helped me facilitate the move from the back-row to prop.
“I’ve been lucky to work with some great characters and great people – guys like Eddie Pollock, and Jimmy Sinclair at Hawks is another you can’t miss out. Jimmy was someone who pushed me, he was really hard on me. At the time I hated it, but it was the best thing for me. Guys like Gordy Reid, Petrus du Plessis, Pieter de Villiers, too – they’ve all had a big influence on me over the years.”
For the start of Fagerson’s journey with the Warriors, though, you have to wind the clock back to the summer of 2014. Then just 18, it was an introduction to professional rugby that he’ll never forget.
“I came in midway through pre-season because I’d been at the Junior World Cup in New Zealand, and it was something I loved straight away,” said Fagerson.
“I got to meet and train with Euan Murray – who was one of my rugby heroes growing up not only as a prop but as a Christian – as well as guys like Jon Welsh and Mike Cusack. I remember that one of my first training sessions went alright – I was still too young to be involved in full-on scrums, but Massimo Cuttita, who sadly passed away recently, took me for a one-on-one sled session and it was amazing.
“I remember Shade [Munro] coming up and saying congratulations when I was named on the bench for the first time [against Benetton in October 2014]. I was over the moon. I called my parents and told them and they thought I meant the A team because I’d played in an A team fixture the week before!
“I got in trouble the following week though, because I kept my spot on the bench for an away game against Ulster. Thing is, that weekend was Yasmine’s 21st, so of course I missed the party. I’ve just about been let out of the doghouse now!”
Nowadays, it’s Fagerson who’s imparting his knowledge on the next generation of Glasgow forwards. Despite having only turned 25 himself earlier this year, it’s a role that he’s taken to with enthusiasm.
It’s also something that – in as technical a position as tight-head – the Scotland star believes can only benefit his own game in the long run.
“I enjoy the coaching side,” he explained.
“I’ve done some coaching with GHK and being able to see these small technical improvements you can identify and talk about also helps me in the pro game.
“I’m really lucky that we’ve got some great young props coming through at Glasgow currently; guys like Murphy Walker, who’s going to be an unreal player. He’s also a fellow former Dundee High player, so he’s obviously a legend. Tom Lambert on the loose-head too, he’s going to be a really solid player. There are a lot of good young guys coming through right now.”
For now, though, Fagerson is fully focused on the present – a present that starts with pulling on that famous red jersey of the British and Irish Lions for the first time this afternoon.