The “old school” Scotsman making his mark in west Wales

Rob Lloyd News

Alex Craig is an “old school” rugby player enjoying a new lease of life.

The second row’s move to the Scarlets has seen him secure a return to the Scotland squad, with his fine form earning him a call up for the Six Nations.

He is certainly a man at the top of his game right now, having produced his best display yet for the Welsh region in last weekend’s dramatic BKT URC victory over Benetton Rugby.

His stats speak for themselves. He put in 19 carries for 34 metres against the Italians, beating nine defenders along the way, while also making 13 tackles and winning four lineouts.

After five years at Gloucester, he is really making his mark in his new surroundings, having come on board last summer.

Now he will be looking to produce another big display this weekend when he goes up against a number of his Scotland squad colleagues, with Glasgow the visitors to Parc y Scarlets on Saturday evening.

Reflecting on life in west Wales, the 26-year-old said: 

“I am enjoying it. The boys have made me feel very welcome, so it’s been quite an easy transition. It’s been good.”

The Dumfries-born Craig linked up with Gloucester after shining while playing for the nearby Hartpury College and in international age-grade rugby, signing his first professional contract in 2019.

Catching the eye at Kingsholm, he was soon called up by Scotland and won two caps off the bench during the 2021 Six Nations, but his progress was then hampered by injury.

“I tore my hamstring and then went on to a few more injuries after that,” he says. “The last two years before this season, I struggled to stay fit.

“It was quite frustrating because there’s not an awful lot you can do.

“I am grateful to be fit now. I’ve managed to string games together, which is important for me.

“So personally it’s been great from that point of view. It helps you as a player going from game to game rather than playing a couple and then being out for a while.

“It builds confidence and your ability to play.”

The 6ft 6ins, 18st 10lbs Craig was called up by Scotland midway through the Six Nations following an injury to fellow second row Richie Gray.

“It was great to be back involved in the squad,” he said.

“It’s something I’ve been striving towards.

“It’s been a couple of years since I was last involved, so to get back in the mix and see some of the boys up there I haven’t seen for a while was great.

“Staying fit is obviously crucial for that. You can build performances and coaches are aware of you if you are doing well.”

Craig is following in the illustrious footsteps of John Barclay as a Scottish international forward at the Scarlets.

“I was a big fan of his when I was younger,” he reveals.

“I was obviously aware he was at the Scarlets. You see him up on the wall here, having played more than 100 games.

“I have heard him speak very highly of the Scarlets and saying it was the favourite time of his career being here.”

Scarlets coach Dwayne Peel was full of praise for Craig’s big ball-carrying display in the 16-13 victory over Benetton.

“I thought that was his best game for us,” said the former Wales scrum-half.

“He is an old school lock in many ways. He gets round and does his work, with high carries, high ruck numbers.

“He had a good bit of energy about him. I thought he was excellent.

“I am really pleased for him. He is a great guy and hopefully there are many more of those to come.”