By Neale Harvey
Marquee signing Richie Vernon is ready to spearhead London Scottish’s charge for a top six Championship place after quitting Glasgow for a new life.
Vernon, 30, was called into Scotland’s Six Nations squad as recently as March but the centre has elected to pursue other career options in London instead.
Converted back rower Vernon told The Rugby Paper: “I didn’t get anywhere near the opportunities I’d have liked at Glasgow last season so it’s time to move.
“The big decision was whether to retire or whether I’ve got another year left in me, but I had some great conversations with (rugby director) Dave Morris and chairman Malcolm Offord at London Scottish and realised I could add my experience.
“Importantly, I’ll do a couple of days each week working in the City alongside my rugby and the move ticked a lot of boxes. I’m looking forward to the challenge and want to enjoy playing at what is still a really good level.”
Vernon added: “I’d always envisaged playing until I was 33 or 35 but I’ve made the decision early because you get to a stage where you see how precarious it can be with injuries and you need to prepare for life after that.
“Coming back from an Achilles injury the year before last brought that home to me and, having done a degree in investment management, that’s something I’m really interested in and I’ll be working in London for Aberdeen Standard.
“The body feels good, I’m in really good shape and I’ll try to make an impact at Scottish.”
Vernon brings a wealth of big match experience to the Exiles, having been capped 24 times by Scotland and appeared at two World Cups.
Scottish are looking to bounce back after finishing second bottom last season, with Vernon explaining: “The aspiration is to be competitive and, from speaking to Dave, they lost a lot of tight games in the last few minutes.
“But it’s a league where you can make a really big leap over the course of one season and be up there challenging the year after, so getting into the top six and giving teams like London Irish and Ealing a run is the target.
“I’m going there as a centre but I played a few times for Glasgow in the back row last year as well, so if I have to get the scrum cap on again and cover for injuries or whatever, I’m happy to go with what the coaches decide.”
Meanwhile, Vernon is convinced Scotland are on a fast-track to become Six Nations and World Cup challengers under boss Gregor Townsend.
He said: “Gregor’s got a blueprint of how he wants the team to play and some of their attacking rugby is fantastic. They’ve got a good blend of youth and experience and the next challenge for Scotland is to be consistent.
“A couple of times during the Six Nations they got overpowered a bit, but to blood so many youngsters on tour this summer has been brilliant and beating Argentina shows the impact Gregor has been making.
“More than anything else, which I saw in training in March, is Gregor is mad about trying to be able to play at pace and keep that up. The speed at which they train is pretty hectic but that’s how he wants to blow teams away.
“That’s what you need to do if you want to compete with teams like New Zealand and he’s developing that really well.”
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