WHILE worrying in a general kind of way about injuries like the one that could mean Jamie Ritchie joins that band of players who have been named in a Rugby World Cup squad but then had to drop out, Gregor Townsend, the Scotland head coach, must have been keeping a specific watch on Duncan Taylor.

It’s no secret that Townsend sees Taylor as one of his key men, not just on the pitch but as a leader off of it as well. The Scotland head coach has spoken about how important Taylor has been at training even when he was injured and unable to take part.

“On our summer tour last year, he came out to Canada and America [even though it was soon obvious he would not be able to play],” Townsend recalled.

“It was at a team run in Houston when we didn’t have the best of sessions.

“He wasn’t involved in the 23, he was watching from the side-line, but he came in, got the boys in a huddle and made a couple of points.

“He was really positive about the things that weren’t going well; it was basically ‘this is who we are and this is what we’ve got to show’. He does it naturally. Players listen.”

By that point, Taylor’s performances in the two matches he managed to complete in after Townsend took charge of the team – against Italy and Australia on the 2017 summer tour – were enough to see him pencilled into the World Cup squad with more than two years still to go. It may even have helped that when he was forced off against Fiji, the third tour match, things started to go wrong.

The unfortunate thing for both player and coach was that Taylor spent most of those two years injured with shoulders, knee and back all breaking down on either side of a devastating head knock that had him wondering at one stage if he would ever be fit enough to play again.

Now, Taylor is back in operation, playing 48 minutes at inside centre in the opening match of the warm-up campaign and a full 80 at outside centre in the final match on Friday, three days after being named, as expected, in the travelling party.

“I am pretty confident now with getting that game time under my belt and seeing how my body has reacted to it,” he said. “I know what I need to do to be on top of everything and what I need to be sticking to.

“I am in good shape to turn round in those short gaps [between games]. The physios have been great, so I should stay on top of it.”

Taylor is also much happier about the way things are going as he shakes the rust off.

“I’m just trying to get back up to the standard I was at before I got injured and making sure I am there or there about, vocal and taking on as much responsibility as I can in regard to the players around me - normal stuff,”

he added.

“The first game [against France in Nice] was as tough one to assess where I was. As a team, we did not perform well so it was tough to assess individual performances within it. We learned a lot from that game, I did as well.

“I was happy with where my body was, had a little flare-up afterwards but was happy with where my body was.

“I think I am well prepared, I am ready for international rugby – I have felt for a couple of months that I have been ready.

“The next game is always one I look forward to playing and I will be confident I will be ready for.”

Part of the value that Taylor brings is a steadying influence on the back division, especially when he has the more mercurial talents of the likes of Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg around him ready to create and exploit any opportunities, as and when they present themselves.

Taylor, however is confident that Scotland will be dangerous, given the abundance of options available for Townsend.

“It will be fun playing outside any of our 10s,” he added. “We have [Adam] Hastings in there, Finn [Russell] and [Peter] Horne who can play 10 as well. Playing outside any of those guys is always great fun.

“We have been building for a couple of years as a squad and those relationships within the back line are obviously important while we also create new ones.

“Cohesion is important and we have an amazing group of players to take into this World Cup.

“It is a very exciting back line, we have a lot of talent in the centre and a lot more out wide.

“It is very competitive as well, which is great. We are all driving each other on.”

He is not always the flashiest player for Scotland but as he flies to Japan, this could be the time the injuries dry up and his talent has the chance to flourish on rugby’s greatest stage.