We’re approaching the end of the rugby season and we’ve loved bringing you all a little closer to the players this year with our interview series. As this could be our last full interview we wanted to finish with a flourish and chat to one of the biggest characters in the team!
Gordon Reid spoke to Matt Merritt earlier this week about winning the league, jumping from the Championship to Six Nations rugby and more.
Let’s start with last Friday. A big win against Richmond, securing promotion and then a huge celebration on the pitch. What was it like being out there when the final whistle was blown?
Well it was mixed emotions… It was great to get everything sewn up, but on the other hand I was blowing because it was absolutely roasting!
Scottish lads like me don’t take well to the sun and that heat. I was kept on for 80 minutes so I was pretty annoyed about that as Declan was made aware when I got into the changing room. I tell him every week, I’m a 50 minute man, 60 tops. 80 minutes is just a joke. I think he just does it to wind me up to be honest!
It was great to get the win though, all joking aside, to win a league is a special thing. It’s not done overnight, it takes the whole year. We’ve had a few close encounters, got beaten by a couple of teams. Jersey away obviously in the league. Ealing have been keeping the pressure on us too, so it was good to finish before the last game, I was very happy!
Yeah, it was pretty special! I noticed Ollie Hoskins was pretty smug that he got a rest and you got left on too.
I keep telling him, I’m an old man… you should be the one out here for the whole game. He just laughs at me! He was very happy to get taken off early so he could just rest up and enjoy it.
It was great to play every minute of the game though. The support was immense! It was just like being at home, the crowd was all London Irish!
I can imagine there was quite a lot of celebrating over the weekend too!
I was on a flight straight away, back up the road. We had the Saturday and Sunday off. I know everybody was expected to go out and lose the plot over the weekend but I just wanted to go back and chill with the family.
We’ve got a couple of big games coming up with Ealing this weekend and again the next. It’s not over yet, we want to do the double and finish it with two trophies. It’s hard to win one so to get both would be amazing for the club!
Knowing the league has already been sewn up how do you keep up the focus for the home game against Ealing?
We’ve got a record to keep. We’ve not lost a game in Reading this year which is a huge achievement, so we want to keep that intact. Then we’ll push on and put a good marker down for next weekend in the cup.
We’re not just giving lads a run out, the coaches are putting their best team out there to beat Ealing.
While there are a good few international players at clubs around the Championship, it’s pretty rare for them to be called up for Six Nations games. What was the jump like going from league rugby to facing off against tier one teams?
Every time I go up there (to Scotland camp) I’ve been saying the Championship is a really good standard. I was shocked. I won’t lie, at the start of the season I was one of the lads thinking it would be a walk in the park, but it’s tough – especially for a prop, or any forward – it’s a tough old game!
There’s a lot of boys who have maybe been swept under the rug in the Championship and are more than capable of playing Premiership rugby.
Obviously it’s still a massive step up to international rugby, just as it was when I was playing in the Premiership last year or when I was in the Pro 12. It’s so much faster, both the ball speed and the rucks are so much quicker.
It’s definitely going in the right direction though, it’s a good standard of rugby in this league, 100%.
guess one of the big changes is the standard of the grounds down in this league with some venues being a little closer to grassroots rugby. How have you found the venues you’ve visited?
It’s um…. Well, that’s a challenge!
When we went down to play Pirates, who are no walkover – they beat us in the cup – they’re a good setup. The ground can be a bit challenging down there though, with muck up to your ankles! It’s enjoyable rugby when it’s like that though, it puts both teams on an even keel. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got international players or guys who can run 100 metres in ten seconds flat when you’ve got those problems under foot.
I went from playing against England in Twickenham in front of 80,000 or so to lining up against Pirates in front of two and half thousand on a pitch with barely a blade of grass on it and changing in a portacabin.
It’s funny though, you just have to take it in your stride. It’s what you’re paid to do so you just go out and do the best you can. We got the draw against England and then the week after against Pirates we won. You always go in with the same mentality though!
Sticking on the subject of Scotland, the World Cup will soon be here and we’re all hoping to see you on the plane with the squad. How do you rate Scotland’s chances?
I think we’ve got a lot more depth than we’ve had before, with lots of players coming through in key positions. We’ve got a lot of lads playing for Glasgow and Edinburgh week in, week out. A lot of the younger boys are stepping up and putting their hands out for places.
The last world cup was great, it’s the best we’ve finished. Where we ended up in the 6 nations didn’t reflect on what we can do so with the players coming through, the experience of the senior players and with Glasgow at the top of the Pro 14 and into the finals that will give a lot of the boys experience of knockout rugby.
We’ve got two games each against France and Georgia beforehand as well which will give a lot of the lads a chance to get some experience too.
I think we could go pretty far! The World Cup is totally different…. There’s a lot of pressure on you but you’re in your own wee bubble. Hopefully we can go on a run like we did before.
I guess the goal has to be getting through the group stage because once you get into knockout rugby it’s anyone’s game on the day.
That’s what I’m saying, if Glasgow and Edinburgh are both in the semi-finals of the Pro 14 those lads are getting more experience. That’s what it’s all about, taking those chances when they are available.
You’re right though, getting through the group stage is the goal and anything after that is a bonus. The lads are gelling well so hopefully we can capitalise on that and hopefully I can get a place on the plane and another couple of caps under my belt!
In the week that Topsy Ojo announced his retirement I can’t help but wonder what the atmosphere is like in training at this point in the season when you know lads will be moving on or retiring. I know you’re a close-knit group so how does that affect the mood?
We spoke about it a bit today, it’s about using it as fuel. We want to finish on a high, with those two cups. You want to do those guys justice, give them a good ending and send them off on a high.
Topsy for example is London Irish through and through! There’s boys retiring, boys moving on – such as myself – and then there are boys coming through.
It’s the joys of rugby, you’re never guaranteed to play with the same team again so it’s just a matter of getting out there, giving it 100% and coming away with the win so those of us who are moving on can leave on a high!
We don’t talk about it all the time, but there are times in training or before a game where it is mentioned and it gives you that extra fire in your belly to go out there and do well!
Our thanks to Gordon for his time, to @RugbyLI for carrying out these interviews and to the club for their ongoing support.