Glasgow Warriors No.8 Matt Fagerson intends to follow the example of brother Zander and nail down a starting spot ahead of next year’s Six Nations.
Fagerson, 22, has watched his elder sibling establish himself as the Scots’ premier tighthead prop and a contender for a place on next year’s British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
As he seeks to maintain his own progress in Scotland’s final Autumn Nations Cup match next weekend, the Glasgow back rower says he has a perfect role model in his 24-year-old brother.
“It’s been incredible in the last year-and-a-half watching where he’s come from and how he’s improved his game with his willingness to work as hard as a back row in the front row,” Fagerson, below, said.
“That’s testament to the character he is and what he does and how valuable he is around the team. He’s definitely one of the best tightheads in Europe and he shows that week in, week out, but the best thing about him is he wants to learn more and more.
“He knows he’s not the finished article and that’s a pretty awesome thing, to be playing the way he is at how young he is and have everything else going on around him. It’s pretty cool.”
Fagerson is the second of five children, with two other younger brothers and a younger sister Rachel who “is probably the most sporty of all of us”. But he admits as the two oldest, he and Zander have always been competitive with each other, “be it in the garden, on the X-Box or whatever”.
“Zander pushes me in the gym, he pushes me on the pitch,” he explained.
“If I’m slacking or walking, he’ll be the first to pull me up and if he’s not working hard enough, I’m the same. It’s a really good pressure we put on each other and it only makes us better.”
Fagerson is the eighth different player to have started at No.8 for Scotland since Gregor Townsend took over in 2017, with no one starting more than four successive games.
At 6ft 1in and 17st 4lb (110kg), he is not a giant compared to the likes of England’s Billy Vunipola or South Africa’s Duane Vermeulen, but his dynamism, footwork and work-rate are valuable assets.
Since his debut as a 19-year-old against Canada in June 2018, Fagerson’s Test career has been a stop-start affair, not helped by injuries which forced him off early in both his previous Murrayfield starts before last Sunday, against Fiji in November 2018 and Georgia last month.
But he admits completing 80 minutes against France, where he was Scotland’s top carrier and made the joint-most metres with ball in hand, was a boost to his confidence.
“That was probably one of the first games I’ve played in a Scotland shirt where I’ve actually got to express myself and bring what I do for Glasgow every week,” he added.
“It was awesome getting that opportunity and I have just got to do it again when selected, whether it be next weekend or in the Six Nations. I just want to continue that form and kick on.
“Whether it’s Ireland or England next week, they will be quality opposition but we believe we can win and it’s about going out and expressing that.”