- London Scottish are seventh in the GK IPA Championship
- They travel to third-placed Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday
Robbie Fergusson’s first full season at London Scottish will see the Exiles fall short of a Greene King IPA Championship semi-final berth, but the Ayr-born centre knows he is lucky to still be playing rugby at all.
The former Scotland under 17, 18 and 20 international was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma - a form of cancer - back in 2014, but battled through his treatment and was on the field again six months later.
First-team rugby with Glasgow Warriors and a move south of the border to the Greene King IPA Championship with London Scottish beckoned, and now Fergusson admits the experience has made him more determined than ever to make the grade in rugby.
Perspective and resilience
It was towards the end of 2013 that the then 20-year-old Fergusson began feeling short of breath on the field, but after his diagnosis and treatment, the resilient youngster was playing again in October.
He ran out for the first time since the diagnosis for home club Ayr, where he played minis rugby and coached several teams, to a rapturous reception - and it was then his ambitions to make it as a professional really hit home.
“I wasn’t really thinking about rugby entirely when the diagnosis happened, but your head does get round to the idea that you might not play again,” said Fergusson. “I was fortunate and had a great doctor, a great medical team, and I reacted really well to all the chemotherapy so it cleared itself up really well. “...I wanted to do all my family and friends that stood by me proud.”
“I had six months of treatment, and having the rugby background made going through that so much easier. I had a lot of support from the boys, everyone was sending me well-wishes and once it came back to thinking about playing again, a lot of coaches and players helped me with that as well.
“I was desperate to get back into the game, but it certainly puts things into perspective. You don’t think about rugby for a while, but I really missed it and it made me more ambitious, wanting to kick on. It felt like if I could beat that then I could take on anything, and I wanted to do all my family and friends that stood by me proud.”
Home from home
Fergusson is an ‘exile’ in the truest sense of the word. Despite getting some game time last season in the Pro12 with Glasgow Warriors, where he was part of the academy, when the call came to join London Scottish he jumped at the chance for more first team rugby.
The Richmond-based club enjoy an agreement with Scottish Rugby that sees some of the country’s brightest talents try and cut the mustard in the Championship. And with many of the club’s patrons still relishing their Scottish roots, Fergusson was thrilled to contribute after his loan move was made permanent last April.
He said: “One of the main reasons for signing with London Scottish for this season, was the partnership between the club and Scottish Rugby.
“I knew 14 boys were going to be coming down and that they would be joining a team that I was already comfortable playing in.
“It probably made it easier for them to come down knowing some of us were already here as well. “There’s quite a few Scots in the squad now, and it’s really important to have that for the fans.
“There’s a lot of people around the club that have that Scottish heritage and cherish it; it definitely improves the atmosphere too, the fans like cheering the Scottish boys on in London.”
Having thrived in both the Scotland and Glasgow Warriors academies throughout his junior career, Fergusson played alongside several players that have now burst into the international Test arena, and seeing their success has made the 23-year-old hungry to achieve the same feat.
“Guys like Mark Bennett, Finn Russell and Ali Price all came through with me - Ali was in the academy with me last year and has had a real breakthrough season,” he said. “It’s great to see guys that you’ve played with doing well and it gives you the ambitions to go on and match them too.
“I tried to meet up with a few of them when they came down to play England at Twickenham actually, but we’re always firing messages back and forward.
“I didn’t get to see them in the end - I was in training on the Friday as our game against Cardiff got rescheduled, and then obviously they were a little busy at Twickenham on Saturday.
“They didn’t get me any tickets, but given the score that was probably for the best anyway”