Scotland coach Vern Cotter talked up Rob Harley as the man for the “rough and tumble” in what is expected to be a seismic clash of forward packs at Rugby Park today.
The 26-year-old returns to the starting line-up for the first time since the 2015 Six Nations and, while keen to talk down any notions of him being an enforcer against the physical Georgians, he is eager to make the most of his opportunity and throw every fibre of effort into what will be his 19th cap.
“I guess that’s what I’ll be trying to achieve and if all goes well that’ll be the case,” said the Glasgow Warriors flanker when asked about a potentially brutal shift at the coalface in Kilmarnock this afternoon.
“I guess that’s part of the rugby that they’re trying – to be as unpleasant to play against. It’s just a battle of who can be the most effective at the tackle contest, at breakdowns and going forward.”
Harley has been well warned about his opposite No 6, Vito Kolelishvili, with Mark Bennett, who played with him during his loan spell to Clermont Auvergne, describing the Georgian blindside as “mental”.
“I watched a little bit of footage and talking to Mark as well he said he is a big guy and really powerful,” said Harley, right. “Mark said he is really explosive as well, so he’ll be trying to run away from him but in the forwards you’ve got to front up to that challenge.
“I think their team have that collective character. When [hooker] Shalva [Mamukashvili] was at Glasgow last year he was the same – off the park he was a quiet guy, very very friendly, but as soon as he stepped over the white line he was just ferocious and willing to throw his body into anything.”
Harley replaces Magnus Bradbury in the No 6 jersey this week but knows the 21-year-old, who made a solid Test debut against Argentina, is set to be a formidable rival for back-row selection.
“There’s always a bit of a challenge when there’s guys coming through,” said Harley. “But I take the view that I need to focus on my own performance and what you’re doing. Try and improve yourself as a player; work on your own skills. If you take care of your own performance you can rely on the rest taking care of itself.”
Harley believes his fellow Glasgow Warrior, Ryan Wilson, will help add even more combative qualities to today’s home back row.
“I really enjoy playing with Ryan,” he said. “He’s a player who’s fully committed and puts his whole body on the line for the team, and that’s what you want. He’s a leader and someone who brings the whole atmosphere and readiness up in the squad.”