World Cup dream is payback for mum and dad – Scotland centre Johnson

Sam Johnson hopes to finally write off his debt with the bank of mum and dad at the World Cup.

The Glasgow centre will be forever grateful for the endless hours put in by his parents Peter and Leanne while he was a youngster as they ensured he made the most of his talents.

Whether it be the time given up to ferry him to and from training sessions or the financial cost of paying for expensive trips abroad, the 26-year-old knows the support he received was worth its weight in gold.

Sam Johnson is in contention to start in Scotland's World Cup opener
Sam Johnson is in contention to start in Scotland’s World Cup opener (Graham Stuart/PA)

Now the Australia-born Tartan convert – who qualified last year after chalking up three years with Warriors – is looking forward to settling what he owes his family as they make the trip of lifetime to see him in action in Japan.

The Queenslander told the PA news agency: “My mum and dad are going to head out for the first couple of weeks then my girlfriend Eilidh is flying out for the later stages.

“This tournament is not just an experience for me, it’s an experience for them as well. They are really looking forward to getting out to Japan.

“I see what I’m doing not only as something for me to enjoy, but a journey that the people close to me can experience too.

“Going to the World Cup is payback for them. When you are a young kid, you rely on your parents to drive you to training.

“While you’re running about, they are sitting in the car for a couple of hours at a time. When you get older there is a financial aspect too. There were trips away and rugby tours to be paid for.

“So it’s great that I can repay them in a way being giving them the chance to go to Japan with me.”

The family have already put the miles in making the journey from Down Under to Murrayfield to see their son make his debut during this year’s Six Nations.

The emotion of seeing those he holds dearest in the stands helped produce a supercharged display against Italy. And he hopes having them close again will produce a similar result when Scotland kick-off their tournament against Ireland at the International Stadium in Yokohama a week on Sunday.

“I remember making my debut against Italy and seeing my family as well as my girlfriend’s family in the crowd,” he said.

“It struck me then that I wasn’t just doing this for myself. It’s for your family and your country. That’s a pretty special thing and the emotion really drives you on.”

Johnson’s path to the Test stage has had more twists and turns than the average family soap opera. He struggled to settle in Glasgow at first following his move from Queensland Reds in 2015.

After rediscovering his best form for Dave Rennie’s squad, he was rewarded with his first Scotland start against the Azzurri earlier this year. But after featuring in defeats to Ireland and France he was left in the stand as the Scots slumped to a third straight defeat against Wales in Edinburgh.

Johnson played a key role as Scotland fought back for a draw against England
Johnson played a key role as Scotland fought back for a draw against England (Gareth Fuller/PA)

However, he was back in Townsend’s team for the trip to Twickenham and played a vital role – as well as scoring his first international try – in the thrilling 38-38 draw with England.

He has already been tipped to start in midfield alongside Duncan Taylor but, given the roller-coaster ride he has been on to this point, Johnson is refusing to take his place for granted.

He said: “There was no better test for me to show I was ready for a World Cup than proving myself on the Six Nations stage.

“Having those experiences before now has been invaluable. There are four quality centres and we’re all chomping at the bit to get out there.

“Whoever ends up being the starting combination will have had to work hard to grab that slot.

“There’s a pretty good blend there and real quality, which you can see from the fact that top players like Huw Jones and Rory Hutchinson missed out. Now it’s up to the coaching staff to see what works best.”

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