SCOTLAND assistant coach Matt Taylor reckons John Hardie can become a fans’ favourite.
The New Zealand-born flanker landed a shock call-up to Vern Cotter’s World Cup squad when he was chosen ahead of John Barclay and Blair Cowan.
His inclusion in the 31-man travelling party sparked a furious backlash from the likes of former Scotlnad prop Peter Wright, who dubbed the decision to snub home-grown talent like Barclay in particular a “disgrace”.
But Hardie – who only touched down in Scotland for the first time six weeks ago – has quickly set about justifying his place after impressive outings in his first two Scotland caps.
He made 17 tackles without failure on his Test debut away to Italy last month before putting in another solid defensive display in the 19-16 defeat to France in Paris last weekend.
The former Otago Highlanders player – who qualifies for the Scots thanks to his Fifer grandparents – is still adjusting to the challenge of international rugby, but Taylor believes he could win a place in the hearts of the Scotland support when they get their World Cup campaign under way on 23 September against Japan.
He said: “On the field John has been excellent. I’m really excited for him because he’s come in and just got his head down and worked hard. He’s a quality person and a quality rugby player.
“I think you’ll find the rest of the group have also been really happy with him and appreciate him not only as a guy but as a player as well.
“I don’t know if he has felt under pressure to justify his place because I haven’t asked him that. But he may have felt like that. He’s gone out and trained really hard though and shown on the field how good he is.
“He might have felt under that pressure, I don’t know, but I think he’s done a great job regardless.
“I wouldn’t be surprised in six months or a year’s time once he’s had a lot more games for Scotland that he becomes a crowd favourite. If he keeps playing the way he is, the Scottish people will appreciate that he’s working hard and putting his body on the line. He’s already done that and I think he’ll continue to do that.”