Six Nations: Competition drives Kellock to keep Scots place
Scotland's win over Italy last year taught Alastair Kellock never to take his place in the team for granted.
Making his first Test start for two years, the second row left the pitch at Murrayfield having helped his country record their biggest Six Nations win against the Azzurri.
The following game, he found himself unceremoniously dropped for the returning Jim Hamilton.
It is fair to say Hamilton and Nathan Hines were former head coach Frank Hadden's first-choice pairing, with Kellock doing well even to make the bench.
The contrast could hardly be greater under Andy Robinson, with Kellock starting all five games since the former Edinburgh and England boss took charge, but he fears he is only one below-par display away from being axed again.
“It makes you even more hungry; you realise how fragile it is,” said Kellock.
“Every game that you don't play is disappointing. I did all I could last year to stay in the team; unfortunately, I didn't get the nod. I've had times I've not played for a couple of years.
“Unless you're performing at your absolute best then you can be out really, really quickly.
“You don't get second chances so I've got to make sure that every game that I play, I'm playing to the best of my ability.”
Kellock may not have got his opportunity under Robinson had Hamilton not been out injured for the autumn internationals and he knows with Hines also now fit and Glasgow team-mate Richie Gray breaking through, there is now a genuine four-way fight for the jersey.
“We know how close it is and how much competition there is,” said Kellock.
“So we've got to make sure that we're all playing well.”
Second row could be the key battleground on Saturday, with Italy's line-out having failed to function in their defeats by Ireland and England.
Kellock — one of three players in the team yet to taste defeat against the Azzurri — believes it is as much about Scotland getting their own set piece right this weekend as disrupting their opponents'.
“Our own ball has to provide our backs with a good platform and then we've got to put as much pressure on them as possible,” he said.