Scotland number eight Matt Fagerson relishing reunion with Dave Rennie

The back-row forward can see Rennie’s influence in the Wallabies

Gavin McCafferty
Wednesday 03 November 2021 14:47
Scotland’s Matt Fagerson will be reunited with a former coach at BT Murrayfield (Jane Barlow/PA)
Scotland’s Matt Fagerson will be reunited with a former coach at BT Murrayfield (Jane Barlow/PA)

Matt Fagerson can see the freedom to play instilled by his former Glasgow coach Dave Rennie in Scotland’s next opponents, Australia

Fagerson will come face to face with his former mentor on Sunday when Australia visit BT Murrayfield on the back of a five-match winning run which has seen them score an average 30 points per game.

And the back-row forward can see Rennie’s influence in the Wallabies

“They love to play from deep and they are pretty brutal in the contact and clear-out, and they have some brilliant tacklers as well,” Fagerson said.

“Dave was a brilliant coach, you played before you kicked, he bred that into the whole squad.

“You can see little bits but he has clearly taken on Australia and he is doing an amazing job, and it’s great to see. He has put his own spin on where he wants them to go.

“They won’t be afraid to play, that was a massive thing for him. We played Exeter at home one year and scored two from our own five-metre line, because that was the way he wanted us to play. We came out on top by about 20 points.

“They will be trying to play expansive rugby and keep the ball in hand.”

Fagerson in action against Wales (Jane Barlow/PA)

Fagerson made his Warriors debut under current Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend in September 2016 but got his first professional contract 13 months later after Rennie’s arrival.

The 23-year-old said: “I am very fond of Dave, I thought he was a great coach and he was really, really good with me.

“One of biggest things I took from Dave was his player management to me personally. If I was playing poorly, he would tell me but equally, if I was playing well, he would tell me that.

“We had some really good honest discussions about things to work on, things I was doing well, my he was picking me, why I missed out on that game. That was something I really respected about him.

Rennie watches over a warm-up (Dave Howarth/PA)

“In terms of things that really stuck with me, my footwork was probably a big thing for him. Something he really liked in a back-row, who is meant to be steam-rolling heavy cannon straight at boys, he quite liked the fact I could get soft shoulders here and there.”

Rennie left Scotland last summer but the pandemic prematurely ended his Warriors career.

Since then, Fagerson has established himself as a regular Scotland starter but showing Rennie how he has developed on the mark is not the forward’s focus of the reunion.

“It’s not so much a motivation,” he said. “It will just be really good to play against a team he is coaching and get a catch-up with him after the game, because it’s been a long time and I have a lot of respect for Dave.”

The game is set to be the number eight’s first against Australia.

“It will be amazing,” he said. “I remember watching the tour when they went to Australia and I remember being at Murrayfield when we played them last as well. So it will be special to play against them, if selected.

“They come off the back of winning five games in a row, they beat the world champions twice and Japan as well, who are playing some good rugby. They are developing as a team so it will be a massive challenge for us but one we are looking forward to.

“We need to trust in our systems, in the last couple of Six Nations we have had a really good defence. If we trust our systems we will hopefully come away with a good result.

“But we have a lot of attacking threats, players all over the park with some great individual talent. If we pull all that together, it will be a pretty good occasion.”

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