Scotland v Italy, Murrayfield, August 20
Barclay hungry for international return
ESPNscrum Staff
August 19, 2011
Scotland flanker John Barclay is smashed, England v Scotland, Six Nations, Twickenham, England, March 13, 2011
Barclay takes the ball up against England in this year's Six Nations © Getty Images

Scotland flanker John Barclay is hungry to return to international action against Italy on Saturday and lay down a marker for the Rugby World Cup.

The 24-year-old will start at openside against the Azzuri at Murrayfield as one of 14 changes to the side that beat Ireland 10-6 last weekend. His last appearance for Scotland came against Italy at Murrayfield on March 19 and was even withdrawn from club action for the Glasgow Warriors from the end of March in order to preserve him for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

"I'm really desperate to play well, to go out and really enjoy it, get my hands on the ball, make some good tackles," Barclay said. "It's exciting just to get to play rugby again. I've not played for five months, I'm a bit nervous, but looking forward to it."

Prior to the Ireland Test on August 6, Barclay had featured in 15 straight matches for Scotland and in 17 of Robinson's 18 fixtures in charge since autumn 2009. And he feels the rest from match action over the past five months has been of benefit.

"I came back niggle free, I got through pre-season pretty well," he said. "I feel like I've got stronger, fitter, faster - all the goals you're looking for. I've got to see where I am."

While Barclay appears the number one choice at openside flanker, he is taking nothing for granted. Back-row is one of the most competitive areas of the Scotland squad and it will be intriguing to see who Robinson decides to leave behind when he announces his 30-man World Cup squad on Monday.

Barclay sees Saturday as a chance to prove his standing as first choice number seven, with Ross Rennie having made his case in his first Scotland start against Ireland. Barclay added: "There seems to be a lot of quality back rows around and throughout the squad there's genuine competition.

"All I can do is play well tomorrow and hopefully get on the plane. It's up to the coaches - all I can do is try and prove I'm the best in my position."

Italy's pack and back-row, in particular, will provide a stern test, but Barclay believes, along with Kelly Brown and Richie Vernon and the rest of the Scotland team, that the hosts are up to the challenge.

"They've got a pretty good back row. (Sergio) Parisse is world class - we'll have to try and shut him down," Barclay said. "But we've got a pretty good unit and I think our pack's been functioning well all week."

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