As he watched his Glasgow Warriors colleagues lift the United Rugby Championship (URC) trophy in Pretoria a fortnight ago, you could forgive Stafford McDowall for having mixed emotions.  

Having been a mainstay of the squad all season, an infected hand picked up on tour in South Africa at the end of the regular season, coupled with Huw Jones’ return to fitness, meant McDowall played no part in the play-offs.  

He admitted it was frustrating, but those emotions will have been suppressed somewhat by being named Scotland co-captain for the summer tour opener against Canada.  

Reflecting on his injury misfortune, McDowall said: “I think it would be easy for me to say ‘Oh, that’s sport, injuries happen, it’s all a part of it’. But it was pretty tough for me.  

“It was probably the biggest part I’d played in any season in my pro career, and then to just get such an unlucky injury like that." 

Stafford McDowall was outstanding for Scotland against Ireland in the Six NationsMcDowall was outstanding for Scotland against Ireland in the Six Nations (Image: PA)

He also revealed the injury caused him to spend time in Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. 

McDowall added: “We don’t know what caused it in the end. You can’t see on the video - I was just in a maul at the end of the first half and then the maul collapsed and I came up and it was sliced open. 

“They gave it a good clean at half-time before I went back out - they thought that limited the chance of infection.  

“I just think there was grass and dirt and stuff coming out of it after the game, and by the time I had bandaged it up and got back to Scotland, I don’t think the flight helped too much either.  

“When I got to [hospital] on the Tuesday it was pretty clear it was infected. I ended up in there for a couple of days, got an op on it to clean it out.   

“They couldn’t stitch it because of the infection. Even though it had been surgically cleaned, they said ‘We can’t stitch it, because if we sew it up and there’s one more bit of infection there, it will just get infected again and we don’t want to take a risk with your hand’. 

“So that slowed down the whole healing process a little bit, so it took a bit longer than it needs to. But it’s fine now.” 

There are not many centres who can class themselves as genuine lineout options in the elite game. McDowall is an exception, and he’s vowed the injury won’t put him off joining in more lineouts in the future.  

Stafford McDowall enjoyed a stellar season with GlasgowStafford McDowall enjoyed a stellar season with Glasgow (Image: SNS)

“I don’t think Franco [Smith, Glasgow head coach] would be happy to hear that, because I think he quite likes us being in there.  

“It’s not going to put me off at all. I’ve got my head round it now - it was just a freak injury. It’s a bit annoying to never find out what it was from - it would probably put my mind at ease a little bit if I did manage to find out, but I don’t think I ever will.”       

Two years ago, with game-time severely limited during Danny Wilson’s ill-fated spell as Glasgow head coach, McDowall thought he would have to quit rugby and return to his family’s farm.  

Now he is a URC winner and preparing to captain his country for the first time.  

McDowall is relishing the prospect.  

“The chance to co-captain Scotland is not something I’ve ever thought about and I was obviously over the moon when Gregor told me." 

McDowall has known for about 10 days that he would lead Scotland alongside former under-20s colleague Crosbie in Ottawa on Saturday night.  

“It was a bit of a shock, and I was a bit overwhelmed,” McDowall said. 

There were hurried phonecalls home to dad Fergus, who has booked up to make the 3,000-mile journey.  

McDowall added: “I just got straight on the phone to my dad to tell him He was always planning to come to one game, and as soon as he heard I was going to be co-captain, he said, ‘I have to be there for that one’. 

“It’s a pretty special day for my family as well. He’s played a pretty massive role in my career, so I’m glad I get to share that day with him.” 

McDowall, whose rugby career began at Kirkcudbright Academy and Stewartry, will line up alongside debutant Matt Currie, who started out at Dumfries Saints, for Scotland on Saturday.  

Having two Dumfries-born players in the national team is a big milestone for the area, McDowall said.  

McDowall has been impressed with Matt Currie's form for Edinburgh. The pair line up together in Scotland's midfield in OttawaMcDowall has been impressed with Matt Currie's form for Edinburgh. The pair line up together in Scotland's midfield in Ottawa (Image: SNS)

“It’s exciting and I guess it’s a big thing for Dumfries and Galloway to have two boys in there playing together,” he added.  

“It’s a big thing for rugby down there and hopefully we’ll gel pretty quickly. It’s been good training this week so hopefully we can take it on to the pitch.” 

The pair, and Scotland colleague Jamie Dobie, also spent time at Merchiston School in Edinburgh under the guidance of Roddy Deans.  

While the pair are yet to play together, Deans made sure McDowall was aware of Currie’s talents.  

McDowall added: “Roddy’s always pretty good at pointing out the people he thinks are coming up to take your place when they turn pro in a few years' time.  

“He’s always told me he thinks Matt’s going right to the top and he’s right. Having played against him at Edinburgh and also watched him at school I know how good he is.  

“Hopefully we can put him into a bit of space on Saturday and he can show what he can do.”