'If we're on the money I think we can win wherever we go'
JOHN Barclay smiles when asked about Edinburgh's "over-exuberance" during their trip to Swansea last weekend.
"To be honest, whenever I have played against them it's been in a Scottish derby, so it's been pretty physical, I am used to it," said the Scotland back-rower.
Just two weeks into his Scarlets playing career, Barclay finds himself back on Scottish soil looking to help his new side get their season back on an even keel following last weekend's defeat to the Dragons in Newport.
Inevitably, playing against international team-mates/rivals and in front of national coaches leads to questions about a Test career that has stalled over the last 10 months.
But Barclay is more concerned with regional matters at present and that means helping fire the Scarlets to victory at the home of Scottish rugby.
"It sounds very clichéd but coming back from injury and not having had a pre-season I have just got to try to get my match fitness back and get up to speed again," said the openside, who celebrated his 27th birthday in the week.
"It is all about me finding my form at the moment."
Barclay won the last of his 41 caps in Scotland's shock defeat to Tonga in Aberdeen last November — a shuddering loss that jolted Andy Robinson out of his job.
A hamstring injury meant Barclay sat out the Six Nations that followed and having undergone shoulder surgery in June, he also missed Scotland's summer expedition to South Africa.
"I had a bad year last year, I played two Tests in the autumn, but missed the Six Nations with a hamstring tear and then the summer tour with a shoulder injury," he said.
"It shows how quickly you are perhaps not forgotten about, but how someone else can come in and play well in your place. I just need to get back playing and playing well again.
"At the end of last season I felt I was playing as well as I had for a long time, so if I not had my shoulder surgery I would have liked to have thought I would have got some game time on the summer tour.
"Coming down here is a fresh start for me, but it does help being in the same league as the Scottish teams.
"The international breaks are the same and Simon (Easterby) said to me that he will be supportive of me trying to play for my country. He said he would never stop me doing that and he would look to encourage me and push me as much as possible.
"That was really encouraging to hear from a head coach; he is not just thinking with a Scarlets hat on, he is also thinking for the players and that it is good to have internationals playing for the team."
Barclay spent seven years at Glasgow, coming through the academy system after being earmarked for big things during his school days at the Dollar Academy.
When news emerged that he was leaving the Warriors at the end of last season, the dynamic openside was linked to a number of teams, some in France.
And when he did eventually opt for West Wales, the surprise north of the border could be heard echoing across the Clyde.
"I always knew I didn't want to play my whole career in one place, but I am not naïve enough to think you can pick and choose where you want to play these days," he added.
"I had a little look around and this was the best option for me. It is okay to go to France if you are a superstar, but it isn't as easy as saying 'I want to play in France now'.
"They have got rules about the number of French players they have to play; you have got a lot of players coming from South Africa to cash in and you have also got the prospect of playing a lot of rugby — they have played something like six or seven games already to this point. I have had a couple of injuries which haven't been managed that well, so this was definitely the right decision.
"I am lucky that my wife is really supportive. She had been in Glasgow for a long time so she was ready for a change as well.
"We knew we were having a young family (the couple have a five-month-old son) and it was nice to know we were living in a nice spot, down by the Mumbles. She has settled, made friends, I guess home is where you make it."
It was a breathless introduction to regional rugby for Barclay against the Dragons last weekend.
He was only due to play for an hour, but a neck injury to back-row colleague Aaron Shingler meant Barclay had to go the distance.
"I wasn't expecting to play the 80, but Aaron picked up a knock and I had to dig in," he added.
"I felt ok, but it is like a pre-season game, you are not as sharp as you want to be. It takes a couple of games to get into it.
"I thought I did some good stuff out there; sometimes you get the rub of the green at the breakdown, sometimes you don't, so you just have to keep working on that. It is just fine tuning and getting the pace of my game up to where it needs to me."
And Murrayfield this evening?
"Edinburgh struggled a bit last season and had a bad result at the Ospreys last weekend. But they are a side who like to play with the ball and with width, very much like the Scarlets," said Barclay.
"They are trying to put more pressure on sides with their defence, which they felt was their weakness last year, and they will probably target the tackle contest as well.
"We had a bit of trouble with that last week and it has been our focus this week to try and clean up the contact area because we have the backs here to cause teams damage.
"If we are on the money I think we can win wherever we go in this league.
"We know what we have to work on from the Dragons. This is a chance to get back on track and get another win under our belts."