It’s coming up to three years since Damien Hoyland last pulled on a Scotland jersey.
The Edinburgh wing featured against Fiji in June 2017, having broken on to the international scene as part of the extended World Cup squad two years previously.
Hoyland describes his younger self as a “big goal-setter”. If you had told him then – aged 21, ambitious and enthusiastic – that after his full Scotland debut, he would only earn three more caps in the following four and a half years, he would have probably been devastated.
“Every few months I’d write up goals and stick them on the walls,” he recalls. “If I achieved them, it was great. If I didn’t, it was the worst thing in the world.”
That is no longer the 26-year-old’s mentality. He is now taking things “day by day”. It is easier for him – his previous system was unsustainable. He’s learned that some things, like the timing of serious injuries, are out of his control.
Though in the back of his mind, the dream of once again walking out at Murrayfield in a different dark blue jersey remains.
The main reason for Hoyland’s absence from the Scotland reckoning since that Fiji game has been injury. First it was his groin. Then it was his knee. Then it was his foot – and then it was his knee again. In total, two seasons out with rotten luck.
“When you’re injured, it’s rubbish – all those goals you want to achieve are out the door,” he says.
“I struggled nearer the start of my injuries. I’d been in a rugby bubble nearly my whole life.
“As a young rugby player, all you care about is your professional sport – there’s nothing else to do outside of it. As soon as I got injured, I realised there’s a lot that’s not great about it.
“It was a frustrating couple of years off the back of a couple of good seasons here. I was in the Scotland mix.”
Besides rehab, Hoyland did not have much to do. His life seemed to revolve around rugby and nothing else. All of a sudden, he had been thrown into an alien lifestyle devoid of purpose.
“I tried to find other hobbies,” he says. “I fell in love with coffee during that time. I put a lot of time into learning a lot about coffee, which I found really interesting.”
He’s turned that passion into something real – something he can focus on if the misfortune of injury once again comes his way. An off-the-pitch venture with Scotland’s 2019 World Cup captain Stuart McInally.
“Myself and Rambo have a coffee business,” he says. “It’s awesome and a bit of fun. To have something to do outside of rugby really helps.”
But that is not the full extent of Hoyland’s business goals. “I took up a university course, which I’m still doing – business and enterprise in sport at Edinburgh Napier University,” he says.
“It’s good – a few of the boys are doing it. It’s about how elite athletes can move into the business world.”
Although Hoyland is far better equipped to deal with a spell on the sidelines nowadays, his eyes are firmly on his rugby future and he says he will never take the game for granted again.
“Everyone has been through a point where, whether it’s training or a game, you go into it and you’re not feeling quite up for it,” he says. “Since I’ve been injured, I’ve not had that issue.
“It’s the worst weather we’ve had at the moment, but I would much rather be out there training with my pals than be injured.
“Whenever there’s any doubts in my head, I just think back to how I was when I was injured and how desperate I was to play. It put it all into perspective.”
While Hoyland will not get ahead of himself and knows that things can turn at any time, he is back enjoying his rugby and feels ready to kick on.
He has just signed a new deal with the club where he has 71 appearances and 21 tries since moving from Melrose in 2014. And he knows that, if he can cement a place in Richard Cockerill’s starting line-up, he will be well placed for the any future hopes.
“I want to get back in the Scotland set-up,” he adds. “You do that by training well every day and playing well when the opportunity comes.”
Article courtesy of BBC Sport