JAMIE Bhatti admits he sometimes has to pinch himself to truly believe that the last year in his rugby career really did happen, writes Lewis Stuart.

Three years ago, he was not even on the fringes of professional rugby, last year he was still playing amateur rugby for Melrose and now, here is is, about to make his first start for Scotland while winning his 10th cap.

“You are getting named in the teamsheets and getting put up names against Mako Vunipola, Joe Marler, people like that,” Bhatti says in wonder. “The season before I was an amateur watching these guys playing for the Lions. The previous Six Nations I was watching as a fan not realising the year after I was going to be playing in every game.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it, even playing with Glasgow. At the end of the season, we did not do as well as we hoped and personally I was not playing as well as I had done the rest of the season, so to get the call up to come on the tour was pleasing.

“I was not playing my best but to still have the opportunity to be part of the Scotland squad was massive.”

Bhatti, who started playing rugby at Hillfoots before moving to Stirling County, is a true example of a player to come through the ranks without any assistance apart from his own determination and perseverance, so now that the big time his here, he is determined to enjoy it and make the most of it.

“I would not be here and would not be playing if I did not have the ability to do it,” he points out. I believe I have the ability to perform at this top level. I had a year in the Academy, six games, one start for Glasgow last season, and then turned full-time a eyar ago.

“Everyone I speak to, guys I have not seen for a long time, come up to me and say ‘what a year you have had’. I cannot describe it, I have been lucky but have worked hard for it as well.”

His next challenge is to put it all together from the start against the big, physical USA forwards with the heat a levelling factor. “The conditions will be a massive part of the game. I have never experienced heat like that,” Bhatti said. “It is tough, really tough, but we have been training hard.”