Simon Taylor: Sinatra of Scottish rugby hopes his latest return is a happy one

Simon Taylor has had nearly as many major injuries as Jonny Wilkinson. But, Scotland's 'ultimate warrior' tells Simon Turnbull, he is on the comeback trail once again

Frank Hadden and his Scotland squad have just about finished their round of media interviews in the Hawthorn Suite, high up in the South Stand at Murrayfield, when Simon Taylor sneaks quietly into the back of the room and attempts to make straight for the adjacent dining area. Scotland's most-capped No 8 has been described by his national coach as "the ultimate warrior" and he looks the part, the trace of a shiner surrounding his right eye and cuts marking both forearms. It is from a less visible wound that he will be returning to the heat of international battle in the Calcutta Cup contest at Murrayfield today.

"The tendon that straightens it basically came off," Taylor says when asked about the thumb injury that kept him out of Scotland's first three Six Nations games, defeats against France, Wales and Ireland. "Just had to get it put back on. It wasn't anything dramatic. The difference between having a functioning thumb and not for the rest of your life, I suppose."

On sardonic form off the pitch, Taylor is up to scratch on the field too, according to Hadden, who has seen the two and a half club games his treasured back-row man has played in the last three weeks, either in person or via his laptop. It is not the first time that the two-times British and Irish Lion has been on the comeback trail. The terrain has become almost as familiar to him as it has to the Sinatra of the England team he faces today.

Taylor's tally of major injuries stands at nine, just three short of Jonny Wilkinson's Lancet-like litany. The Stirling-born player has 10 caps fewer than England's outside-half (58), but is the same age (28) and happens to boast the same number of international tries (six). His own catalogue of casualty started back in 2000 on the occasion of his second cap; he suffered a double fracture of the left hand in the opening stages of a Murrayfield meeting with the world champion Wallabies but played through the pain for 75 minutes. His list also includes three instances of damage to the knees that required surgery (the first on the Lions tour to Australia in 2001) plus the small matter of a severed toe tendon inflicted by a dropped dinner plate.

Taylor has been here many times before, then, although this time there is a slight difference. Having been a Stade Français player and resident Parisian since the end of the World Cup last autumn, he is returning to international duty as something of an outsider.

"Really enjoying it," he says on the subject of life in the French capital. "No huge surprises. Just ... it's good."

So what has been particularly good about Parisian life? Going to the art galleries, perhaps? "I don't go in for any of that shite," Taylor replies, tongue very much in cheek. "No ... of course, the rugby is the priority there; I live 100 metres from the club. After that, you're living in Paris. It's hard not to enjoy it."

Taylor has never enjoyed the media circus that surrounds the international game, preferring to disengage from the usual platitudinous exchanges and keep his thoughts to himself – or articulate them in the erudite column he pens for one national newspaper with an acidic wit. In the 2001 Lions tour guide he described his personality as "well hidden" and he likes to keep it that way, dropping little lines of misinformation into questionnaires, such as the passions in his life being wood carving and the films of Peter Cushing. It does happen to be true, though, that Taylor attended the same school as Ewan McGregor (Morrisons Academy in Crieff) and that he co-owns a bar in Edinburgh (99 Hanover Street) and a pub-cum-restaurant at Broughty Ferry (Bruach).

This time last year, when news of his move from Edinburgh to Stade Français was announced, the French daily sports paper L'Equipe sent a reporter to the Scottish capital to pen a definitive portrait of the ultimate Caledonian warrior. The headline on the interview was: L'Enigma. "I just like to keep myself to myself," Taylor has said on the subject of his aversion to the spotlight. "I just don't have much to say about rugby. I mean there's not much to it, is there? Fifteen guys running into each other. You can analyse it all you want to, but that's what it comes down to."

Taylor has, he confesses, been glad to escape the critical analysis of Scotland's stumbling Six Nations campaign thus far. "Yeah, it's fantastic to be away from it all," he says. "The negativity. The unrealistic expectations. The backlash against us when those expectations aren't fulfilled. It's just good to be away from it and not to have to see it every day. It feels good to come back from a sort of different angle I suppose."

Come 3.15pm today the vantage point for Taylor will be the rear end of the home pack, as part of a back row, with Alasdair Strokosch and Ally Hogg, looking to recreate the defensive heroics of two years ago, when Andy Robinson's England were shut out at Murrayfield to the tune of an 18-12 overture. Hadden has no doubt that his returning warrior will make his presence felt.

"I was trying to think the other day of when I'd ever seen Simon play a bad game," the Scotland coach said. "I think it was Ebbw Vale away in 2002. He's a guy who just never lets you down."

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine