Having started his working life as a slaughterman in an abattoir with his income supplemented by doing shifts as a part-time bouncer, Jamie Bhatti had a failed attempt at joining the police force, before his late breakthrough into professional rugby broadened his horizons.

Now the loose-head prop is a 29-times capped internationalist who is well positioned to be part of Gregor Townsend’s squad at this autumn’s World Cup, and although he has no plans to hang up his boots any time soon, he has started making progress towards his post-playing career as a pilot.

“I’m 29 now so hopefully I’ve got another four or five years left in me – touch wood – if I can stay injury free, but I’d been thinking for maybe the last 18 months about what I could do after rugby and becoming a pilot was something which really appealed to me,” explained Bhatti, who is originally from Sauchie in Clackmannanshire.

“I came from working in the abattoir and never had any grades, but I’ve always been practical,” he added. “So, I looked into it and spoke to Rambo [Stuart McInally – the former Scotland captain who recently announced his retirement from rugby to pursue a career as a commercial pilot], and he said to go and try it.

“He said after one lesson I would know if it was for me or not, so I gave it a go and I absolutely loved it, and I just kept doing it.

“I do it out of Phoenix Flight School in Cumbernauld, I’m registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, and it’s just a case of booking lessons with an instructor and getting to the point where I can take my test.

“I think you need to do 45 hours before you sit your test, but the average is about 60 or 70 before you get your licence. I started learning back in October and I’ve only done 16 hours because the weather hasn’t been great meaning I’ve not managed to get out as much as I would have liked, so I’m very much at the start of it. I can fly a plane, take off and land, but if you tell me to fly somewhere else, I’d end up in Iceland or somewhere!”

There are not many rugby players as down to earth and searingly honest as Bhatti, and he is quick to acknowledge that he is fortunate that his rugby career gave him this opportunity which he would never have otherwise dreamed of pursuing.

“Rugby has definitely helped me because, in the nicest way possible, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise,” he said. “It’s an expensive hobby and if I was still working in the abattoir or doing a nine to five, I wouldn’t have had an extra grand a month for flying lessons.

“For me now, it’s a hobby, but hopefully at the end I’ll be able to do more with it. I just want to do as much as I can in rugby, get my licences and see where I end up.”

In the meantime, Bhatti has enjoyed getting his rugby career back on an upward trajectory again during the last 18 months after coming through some heavy turbulence. His career was in danger of plummeting into freefall after being deemed surplus to requirements at Glasgow in 2019 and Edinburgh in 2020, but a spell at Bath helped him regain control of his own destiny.

Since returning to Warriors in the summer of 2021, he has started producing some of the best rugby of his career, helping the club to mount their on-going quest for silverware on two fronts, with their next major obstacle being tomorrow night’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Scarlets in Llanelli.

“We don’t want to be happy with making a semi or a quarter final, we want to show what we can do and go the full way in Europe and in the league as well,” said Bhatti. “We can definitely beat anybody on our day.

“Personally, I think I am in a good place,” he added. “I have never doubted myself, I have always said that when I am given game time I will play as well as I can.

“This season I have been given a lot of minutes, which helps, and I am happy with where my game is at the moment. Our set-piece compared to last season – or even the start of this season when it was hit or miss – is a lot better and we are starting to get a good bit of momentum there.”

Regardless of whether they win, lose or draw tomorrow night, Warriors have another big match coming up next weekend when they host Munster in the quarter-finals of the URC. On a personal level, each of these crunch games is another opportunity for Bhatti to push his case for selection to the Scotland squad for this autumn’s World Cup.

“Hopefully I’ll be involved in the summer training squad and these games will give me a bit of credit in the bank,” he concluded.