Six Nations 2015: Horne will deliver against Italy, says Townsend
Glasgow Warriors head coach believes stand-out stand-off Peter Horne has the attributes to guide Scotland to a win over Italy
Gregor Townsend expects Peter Horne to put in a big performance when he makes his first start for Scotland at outside-half against Italy on Saturday.
A former versatile Scotland back himself with 82 Scotland caps and a couple of British and Irish Lions caps to his name, the Glasgow Warriors head coach is familiar with both the step up in performance required in Test match rugby and how it feels as a proud Scot to walk out on to the international pitch at BT Murrayfield in front of more than 60,000 passionate supporters.
I think he’ll go really well. He’s played the last two games at 10 and been a big part of us winning those games.
The 25-year-old may lack those experiences, with his previous five of his six Scotland caps coming on summer tours and a brief cameo against France at the Stade de France in round one this year, but what Horne doesn’t lack is the desire to succeed having battled back from an ACL injury to establish himself as an important weapon in the Warriors backline.
After seeing the former Howe of Fife product make six appearances at 10 for the Warriors this season, Townsend expects Horne to do well when he gets his first chance to star in the RBS Six Nations on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s great. He’s put in huge effort,” Townsend said.
“Since I’ve been here, he’s been a stand-out in the effort he puts in to improve himself; the effort he puts in during games.
“He’s had to recover from a serious injury and probably the injury every player fears – the ACL injury – and he’s now playing at 10 for Scotland.
“It’s a credit to him. I think he’ll go really well.
“He’s played the last two [PRO12] games at 10 and been a big part of us winning those games.”
Horne’s rise to becoming Scotland’s starting outside-half comes at the expense of club team-mate Finn Russell, who is serving the final week of his two-week ban this week after the Scottish Rugby Union’s appeal was dismissed.
His work in contact, which you maybe don’t associate with 10s, is outstanding.
Russell quickly established himself as Scotland’s first-choice in the Vern Cotter era after impressing when given the chance last summer and with the Rugby World Cup fast approaching, Horne has a chance to make a late bid to be in the mix for Scotland’s training squad in August.
With the Warriors providing six of the seven starting backs for the Scotland team this week, Horne will be surrounded by familiar faces with Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett at centre and Sean Lamont, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg providing further attacking threats from wide and deep.
Having played much of his professional rugby in the centres, he brings versatility to the role as well as a few skills in his locker that many 10s lack.
And Townsend is convinced Horne has the attributes to seamlessly slot into Scotland’s attack-minded team and succeed against the Italians, who have won just once away from home in the championship since joining in 2000, albeit against the Dark Blues in 2007.
“He likes to play at tempo, so he’s got an attacking mindset,” Townsend added.
“He’s a very good passer. He’s played a lot in the centre, so he can carry the ball well himself.
“The thing that we value very highly – and I’m sure the Scotland coaches do as well, maybe not picked up by the media – is his ability to clear out rucks.
“That created our try at the weekend for Pat MacArthur [against the Ospreys].
“His work in contact, which you maybe don’t associate with 10s, is outstanding.”