The Scotland match programme for last month’s game against Wales lists the No 8 as being 1.86 metres and 111 kilogrammes, or 6ft 1in and 17½ stone in the old money. It’s an imposing physique but in modern rugby’s land of giants, Fagerson is perhaps on the more diminutive side. What is not in doubt is that the back-row is punching above his weight this season and has been one of the star turns in Scotland’s impressive Six Nations campaign. He is likely to be one of the first names on the team sheet when Gregor Townsend sits down on Friday to pick his team to face Ireland this weekend, a match Fagerson dubs “probably the biggest game I'll have played for Scotland”.
There is much riding on Sunday’s match at Murrayfield where a home win would see Scotland clinch the Triple Crown for the first time in 33 years and a bonus-point victory for the Irish could see them wrap up the title with a game to spare, depending on how England v France plays out at Twickenham on Saturday. Interestingly, Fagerson says he has shed a few pounds this season and believes it has helped him go the distance in matches. He played the full 80 in the wins over England and Wales, and the first 57 minutes of the defeat in France where Scotland had an extra forward on the bench. He believes the modern No 8 has to be a little more nimble than his predecessors and cites Caelan Doris, likely to be his direct opponent on Sunday, as another who is more middleweight than heavyweight.
“Being small is something people have thought [about me] throughout my whole career,” said Fagerson. “But you look at the best No 8s in the world at the moment - I don't know how big Caelan Doris is, but I can't imagine he’s any heavier than I am. Being a No 8 these days is not just about being 6ft 4in and a straight ball carrier like it probably used to be. There is a lot more to the game now than that.”
Fagerson credits Dave Rennie, his former coach at Glasgow Warriors, for giving him a chance when the temptation could have been to go for a heavier option. “Dave had a lot of faith in me and picked me at Glasgow when I was younger,” said the 24-year-old. “He probably liked my footwork and my dynamic ability more than a 120kg No 8 who is just going to carry all day, so I’m massively grateful to him.
“I’ve definitely improved. My physique is something I’ve really focused on over the past two or three years, trying to find my best playing weight. I’ve actually dropped quite a few kilos since the start of the season. I think I’m in a pretty good place at the moment where I’m lasting longer in games and contributing more towards the latter end of games. I wouldn’t say I’ve come on leaps and bounds or anything this year. But I’ve definitely improved and I know what value I can bring to the team.”