SITTING around doing nothing comes naturally to some of us, but it can be difficult for the professional athlete. Many like to insist that they want to take part in every game that their team plays if at all possible, and being told to rest can be frustrating.

Yet sometimes even the most irrepressible of competitors accepts that a bit of time off is needed, and Ali Price is very much a case in point. After playing in all three Tests for the British & Irish Lions this summer, the Glasgow scrum-half was told to take an extended break. When the season started he was still a spectator; only now, having resumed training at Scotstoun several weeks ago, is he ready to return to action.

It has been an unusual experience for the 28-year-old, whose energy and enthusiasm are invariably a match for anyone else in Danny Wilson’s squad. But, as he prepares to take part in the URC match against Leinster on Friday, he knows that his enforced rest has been beneficial, and hopes it can help ensure that he gives the squad the benefit too.

“It was needed - it was a long year,” Price said yesterday, reflecting on a season that began in August 2020 with the resumption of the PRO14 and ended two months ago with the Lions’ third Test against the Springboks. “You kind of know when you’re ready to come back in. In September when the friendlies were starting and the Premiership was beginning, I’m sat there watching these games on the weekend at home and I’ve not even started training yet. 

“I was ready. I was keen to get back in and get myself up to speed. I felt like I did it right. I had the break I needed, that’s for sure.”

Waiting to resume training was a frustrating process; waiting to go from just training to playing in games all the more so. But again, Price is experienced enough by now to know that even someone of his ability cannot simply go straight from a day or two in the gym to 80 minutes out on the park. 

“I think you have to be smart around it,” he added. “No-one likes watching, but if I’ve come off the back of a long season then I’ve had six weeks not doing much with a rugby ball, it wouldn’t be wise to want to be thrown straight back in within a week. You have to be smart as much as you want to be back involved. You have to get your body ready and get up to speed.”

The Lions tour may have ended in disappointment and defeat, but Price is convinced that there were still a lot of positive lessons to be drawn from it. Now that he is up to speed again, he hopes to put some of those lessons into practice for both Glasgow and Scotland, whose head coach Gregor Townsend will announce the squad for the four Autumn Internationals today.

“I learned a hell of a lot in the summer,” continued Price, whose breakthrough with the Warriors came when Townsend was in charge at Scotstoun. “And being involved in the three Test matches at the end against the world champs - they’re tough games, you have to find different ways of playing, and it’s good to pick other guys’ brains from other nations and hear what they’ve got to say.

“I just want to pick up where I left off in the summer, really, and push on from there. It’s been a couple of months since I played. I’m ready to go. I want to go out there and get the ball back in my hands, be a part of the team again, and contribute to the team effort.” 

That team effort is going pretty well so far this season, with the unspectacular but deserved win over Zebre at the weekend having been a third victory in four games in the URC. Even the one defeat to date, against Ulster in Belfast on the opening weekend of the new competition, came with a silver lining in the shape of two bonus points. Having said that, Price is aware that Friday night’s meeting at Scotstoun with the champions will be his team’s toughest test of the season so far. 

“Leinster on Friday: that’s the benchmark for me in this league,” he added. “They’ve won the last four titles and they’re always a great way of seeing where you are as a team, how you perform against a side like that who will always be competitive, front up and be a challenge. 

“You can’t be at 80 percent and expect to eke out a win. Everyone has to turn up and perform. I’m excited to be in the mix and contribute towards that.”