Just two-and-a-half years ago, Stafford McDowall was prepared to give up on his rugby dream.  

The Dumfries-born centre couldn’t get in the Glasgow Warriors team and had been deemed surplus to requirements at Glasgow Warriors by then head coach Danny Wilson.  

Wilson’s departure in the wake of a 76-14 annihilation by Leinster in Dublin brought the arrival of Franco Smith to Scotstoun. With it, McDowall’s career was revived.  

He won his first Scotland cap in the summer in a Rugby World Cup warm-up against Italy, but didn’t feature in the Six Nations until he was tasked with taking on title-chasing Ireland, and their imperious midfield duo of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw, at the Aviva Stadium.  

It was, McDowall admitted, a baptism of fire in the opening exchanges.  

"It was tough - I was blowing after 20 minutes because it was pretty quick,” the 26-year-old said.  

"It’s a tough place to come and play against arguably the best team in the world but I think we defended pretty well.  

"It definitely helped being in and around the environment. I get to train with boys and it's such a high intensity that it improves you. I've also been able to go back and play for Glasgow during the Six Nations off weeks and that keeps you match fit which is good." 

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McDowall has been Glasgow’s outstanding operator during the ‘fallow’ Six Nations weeks, earning man of the match awards in wins over Dragons and Benetton.  

Those performances were not enough to earn him selection against Italy, and he admitted when Cameron Redpath got the nod to replace the injured Sione Tuipulotu in the number 12 shirt, he felt his chance of making an appearance in the championship this year may have gone.  

“I just kept my head down and kept working hard and thankfully the opportunity came,” he added.  

McDowall admitted his second international appearance was a “massive step up” from his debut last summer, but he looked to the manor born, particularly as he shrugged off Aki and broke up field in the first half.  

He said: "The play was for me to kick but when I looked up [Jordan] Larmour had covered it really well and, when I checked, Aki was right on me.  

Scotland Rugby News: Ben White and Stafford McDowall tackle Ireland wing Calvin NashBen White and Stafford McDowall tackle Ireland wing Calvin Nash (Image: PA)

“It was just a heat of the moment thing, trying to get out of the way, and then all of a sudden I was through.  

“Maybe I could have looked to link up better when I broke through.  

“I could hear [Duhan van der Merwe] and then when I looked up I saw [Calvin] Nash was there as well so I just decided to try and carry as far as I could.” 

The big centre also revealed he was tasked with singing to his team-mates ahead of his championship debut.  

Marvin Gaye’s ‘Ain’t no Mountain High Enough’ seemed a fitting choice for a man who has clawed his way from the professional rugby scrapheap to the Test arena in just a couple of years.  

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He said: “I did it on Friday because it was my first Six Nations game. I think I was just about more nervous for that than the game.” 

The arrival of South African coach Smith has turned around McDowall’s career and he wants to get straight back into Glasgow Warriors duty this week ahead of their URC clash with Cardiff at Scotstoun on Friday.  

McDowall paid tribute to the impact Smith has had since arriving at Scotstoun.  

"He just put a bit of faith and a bit of confidence back in me. The way he tells you to play is just to go and express yourself and it liberates us to play how we want to play. 

“I think getting that backing from the coach and being able to go and play my game and having the confidence to bring out my strengths has really helped me.” 

Scotland Rugby News: Stafford McDowall is now looking forward to getting back to Glasgow Warriors dutyStafford McDowall is now looking forward to getting back to Glasgow Warriors duty (Image: SNS)

The injury to Tuipulotu could open the door for McDowall to be involved in some big games for Glasgow in the coming weeks, including a Champions Cup last 16 trip to Harlequins.  

And a continued run of good form could also earn him a place on Scotland’s summer tour, but before then he wants to get his hands on a trophy with the club he so nearly departed a couple of years ago.  

“Glasgow’s the main focus for now,” he added.  

“We want to win silverware and we’re still competing on two fronts. If we keep going as we are, we can do well in two competitions, so I’ll keep focusing on that and if I’m playing well then hopefully I can get selected for the summer tour.”