RORY DARGE broke the monotony of rehabbing his injured ankle by learning to drive during the four and a half months he was out of action earlier this season, and now the flanker is looking forward to a shift in gears on the rugby field as Glasgow Warriors hunt glory on two fronts in what has the potentials to be a thrilling climax to the 2022/23 campaign.

First up is a quarter-final tie against the Lions at Scotstoun in the Challenge Cup tomorrow night, then Warriors need one win from either of their two remaining league matches to secure a home tie in the URC play-offs.

“I’ve obviously had a few injuries now, so I’ve had to deal with this kind of thing before, but it has been a frustrating period for me,” explained the 23-year-old, who made his senior Scotland debut during last year’s Six Nations. “So, I’ve focused on some things outside of rugby, like learning to drive, which I couldn’t do before my last injury.

“That’s been a big thing for me. It makes such a difference. I was so nervous for sitting my test. I was more nervous before my test than I ever have been for any game of rugby! But I passed first time, and I’ve got myself a car, a wee Suzuki Swift, so if you see a bad driver on the road driving one of those then it might be me!”

Tomorrow’s match will be Darge’s fifth game back since recovering from a fracture-dislocation of his ankle suffered against Cardiff back in September, and he is hitting the sort of form which led to him being named Scottish Rugby’s young player of the year for 2021/22.

He is delighted to be contributing again to a team who have got themselves into a great position to pick up their first piece of serious silverware since lifting the PRO12 title – as the URC was then called – back in 2015.

“That’s obviously the aspiration, but we’ve got big games coming every week now,” said Darge, when asked if the team have spoken about the prospect of winning either the Challenge Cup or the URC this season. “The Lions this weekend is first and foremost. It’s at home and it’s going to be a huge game. We lost out there against them in South Africa a few weeks ago, so that’s maybe an added factor for us as well.

“Looking at the Dragons game last week, we know we need to improve on the defensive side of things. Personally, I’m feeling fresh and it’s easy for me to get up for every game because I spent so long on the side-lines watching the boys.”

There is also the added motivation for Darge – and several other members of the Warriors line-up – of pushing their case for selection to Scotland’s World Cup training squad, which is due to be announced in mid-May. “Absolutely, we’re all buzzing for that,” he confirmed. “In terms of being fit, injuries are obviously part of the game, so touch wood that won’t be an issue like it has been for me at times in the past.

“I am still aware of the injury after having had fairly serious surgery done on it,” he added. “But as soon as I had my first proper training session back with the team and got ball in hand, I just kind of forgot about it.”

The Warriors’ or the Lions’ semi-final opponents will be the winners of tonight’s first quarter-final between the Scarlets and Clermont Auvergne in Llanelli.

British & Irish Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny returns for the home team in the only change from the line-up that beat Brive in the last 16. Both matches on the other side of the draw take place tomorrow, with Toulon being at home to Lyon and Cardiff travelling to Italy to take on Benetton.

Meanwhile, the Champions Cup quarter-finals get under way in Dublin this evening, when Leinster play Leicester, who knocked Edinburgh out last week. Tomorrow, Toulouse are at home to the Sharks and Exeter Chiefs welcome the Stormers to Sandy Park, and then the last eight concludes on Sunday when La Rochelle are at home to Saracens.