Having witnessed close up the way he believes an international captain should go about his business, Stuart McInally’s intention is to change as little as possible about the national team’s leadership on their tour of the Americas.

The 27-year-old, who has made just 17 Test appearances and only reached double figures for Test starts in the final match of the Six Nations Championship, is by no means the most experienced player on this trip either in terms of age or caps, but he has admired the way John Barclay has led the team over the past year and will use him as his model. 

“I was thinking back to the best captains I’ve been under and it was always the guys who played best. I never really remember what people say,” McInally observed. 

“John obviously speaks very well when he needs to, but people recognise him as a good captain from how well he plays and puts his body on the line every time he plays. So if I was to pick one, he’s someone I’d like to emulate, first and foremost by playing well. With John being a forward, the way he plays, I’d like to try and emulate a lot of that, how hard he works off the ball and the stuff he does up front. It’s a good way to lead as a forward.”

He has had a fair bit of experience of captaining Edinburgh over recent months and that only reinforced his understanding of the need to value action over words.

“To be honest, I try to do as little as possible,” he said.“When I captained Edinburgh before I probably overthought it a bit. I now realise that talking is good but it’s more about what you do on the pitch. I just try and train hard and, if that helps some boys, then great. There’s no real secret formula to it.

“This last year I’ve just been trying to keep my head down, almost do less of the leading stuff, but it’s funny how when you try to lead less, you end up doing it just by the way you’re playing. You almost do it without realising, which is possibly the best way. When you start overthinking it I don’t think it’s that effective.”

That year in question has been an exceptional one for McInally who, when the Scotland party was heading off to the South Pacific this time in 2017, was at home nursing an injured back, but also aware that he was well down the international pecking order as Fraser Brown and George Turner understudied Ross Ford on that tour.

Fortune always plays a hand in generating the sort of opportunity he has grasped and Ford’s ill luck in suffering an early-season injury provided McInally with the opening to build on the good impression he had clearly made on his new boss at Edinburgh, Richard Cockerill. 

“I think it did help having a new coach,” he acknowledged. “It was just totally fresh. It was like joining a new club, in a way. The way he was running it was totally different to anything we had done before. All the fitness stuff we were doing for pre-season was totally different. I think that really helped to start again, get your head down and work hard to impress a new coach.

“I was really quite surprised at how smart he was in terms of the game-plan and how open he was to playing a brand of rugby that is really enjoyable. Everyone at Edinburgh has really enjoyed what he’s brought. It was exactly what we needed – that level of discipline which we had, without really knowing it, drifted away from the last couple of seasons. Suddenly you get that into line and it allows you to focus on other parts of your game like throwing the ball around a bit more. I never thought that my chance had gone, I just knew that I had to reset a bit and the way that year had gone I had to just start again and that’s what I did, enjoyed pre-season with Edinburgh and just forgot about Scotland for a bit.

“As a result of putting Edinburgh before everything else, I started playing better and the Scotland thing came back. The less you think about it, the quicker it came back around.”

Previously marginalised since making the bold decision to switch positions from back-row to hooker five years ago, it was the season he had been waiting for. 

“It’s just been a whirlwind year in terms of not playing at all for Scotland last year to playing as much as I have this year. It’s been great, a big honour and I just want to keep it going,” he said.

“Things just kept happening, which is great. I look back to last year, which was the other end of the spectrum. I try not to get too ahead of myself, just take it in my stride.”