PLAYING catch-up can be frustrating, whether for an individual making up for lost time personally or for a team trying to come back from a slow start to a game. But, as Lewis Carmichael knows all too well, it is considerably less frustrating than not playing at all.

Two seasons ago the Edinburgh forward enjoyed an outstanding campaign, which culminated in him making his Scotland debut against Canada. He came off the bench and scored in a victory in Edmonton, showing the sort of enterprise in the loose that proved there is a lot more to his game than the set-piece grunt work that is the staple of the second row’s work.

Then came injury, a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, which ruled him out of action for the whole of last season. Coming hot on the heels of that Test breakthrough, it was a particularly inopportune time for Carmichael to be sidelined, and to be spending long rehab sessions in the gym while his peers were fighting for places in Gregor Townsend’s World Cup squad.

Now, though, he is back. Six starts for Edinburgh this season may not have quite been enough for him to hit top form, and he faces fierce competition from Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis for a place in Richard Cockerill’s team. But the progress is clear, and Carmichael, now 24, is happy to be back on the right track.

“It was obviously devastating, missing a full season of rugby,” he said. “It was hard. But the knee feels all good now and I’m just happy to be trying to play catch-up on that season I missed. So yeah, it’s obviously not ideal, being out for a year, but I’m glad I’m back now, fully fit.

“Obviously, not playing a lot of rugby last year, I’m loving starting and loving my time on the field at the moment. You want to be playing as much as you can, so I’ve got to take it when I can.

“I would have loved to have played in every game this season, but that just doesn’t happen when you’ve got two guys like Gilco and Tooly playing some of their best rugby. I’m just wanting to play every week, and doing everything I can in training to play every week.”

More mobile than those two team-mates, Carmichael can play at blindside too, and that versatility should play in his favour at both club and international level, even if his personal preference is to play in the second rather than the back row.

“I’ve not played a lot at six,” he said. “I’ve obviously played a lot of my rugby in the second row, but I like to think that, if need be, I can slot into that six role. It’s easy enough set-piece wise.

“But yeah, it is something I’ve done before – I’m pretty sure I started the first game of the season at six. But for me, I’m happy to be on the pitch. So if Cockers puts me there, then it doesn’t really matter to me.”

A seventh start is likely to follow in the Challenge Cup match away to Bordeaux tomorrow, a match which in terms of sheer brute force is shaping up to be Edinburgh’s biggest challenge of the season so far.

“They’re a very big, physical team and we need to match their physicality, as a forward pack especially. I think if we do that, away from home, then it’s anyone’s game.

“So as a forward pack, we need to meet fire with fire. And especially away from home, it’s a big task against these big French boys. So it’s exciting.”