Pete Horne on mission to help Scotland put things right

Pete Horne may not have been there but the centre felt the frustration of all Scotland rugby fans as the nightmare in Nice unfolded.

Pete Horne will win his 42nd cap in Scotland's second World Cup warm-up match against France. Picture Craig Williamson/SNS/SRU

After weeks and months of hard work and preparation Gregor Townsend’s side were walloped 32-3 by France to give the nation a collective wobble as the World Cup in Japan approaches.

Unlike the rest of us, the 29-year-old Fifer has the ability to put things right tomorrow when he takes back the 
No 12 jersey as Scotland face the French again at BT 
Murrayfield in the second warm-up match.

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Horne, however, refuted any suggestion that the wreckage on the Riviera was a good ship to miss.

“No, you’re always keen to be involved. I think everyone at home always is,” said the Glasgow Warriors man who will win his 42nd cap tomorrow.

“It’s tough when you’re watching because you want to be out there with the boys. You like to think that if you were out there you could try to have a positive impact.”

Versatility is a virtue when it comes to selecting tournament squads, which gives Horne an edge with his ability to play at stand-off, though he has had mixed experiences against the French in that regard.

He stepped up in 2016 when Finn Russell was injured after five minutes to deliver a magnificent performance in a 29-18 win which ended a ten-year drought against Les Bleus. Earlier this year, things didn’t go so well as he filled in at 
No 10 for the injured Russell in a 27-10 Six Nations loss in Paris.

Horne watched the Nice horror show from home and admitted he was confounded by the outcome.

“You’re surprised because we’ve had a great camp,” said the former Howe of Fife man. “This is the longest time we spent together as a group since the last World Cup so we were positive and confident going into the game.

“We’ve trained really hard and the team that was running last week was sharp. They seemed well prepared. But for whatever reason it didn’t happen on the night.

“I know from experience in the past that you always feel great at the end of pre-season and quite often you go into your first match and you’re like ‘sh**’, your legs feel full and it is tough. Those guys who got a good bit of game time in the tank will certainly be better for it.” Horne is eager to provide a boost to the nation’s hopes of a good World Cup, which starts on 22 September against Ireland, when he lines up with Chris Harris in a new midfield combination at BT Murrayfield tomorrow.

The 28-year-old Harris, who joins Gloucester from Newcastle Falcons next season, will be winning his ninth cap.

“Attitude is massive. It underpins everything,” said Horne.

“The higher the level it goes it almost becomes a simpler game. A lot of the time, the team that is most fired up and most desperate to win will probably win the game.”

Horne denied that the Scotland squad were now in too cosy a space as previous ones might have been.

“If you can’t get fired up for an international you shouldn’t really be in the room. I don’t think it’s that. If Gregor went around slapping boys I’m not sure how that would go down,” he said.

“Oh God, the coaches get fired up. And the players. If you do something wrong at training you get pulled in and get a rocket. It might be from one of the boys and it might be from one of the coaches. Gregor is not shy. To him, a spade is a spade and we’ll get told.”

The fact Horne is fighting for his place in the final 31-man squad which Townsend will announce between the away and home Georgia games on 3 September, is not so much water off a duck’s back as vapour.

“I’ve been in a position in my career where I’ve never had the luxury of being able to go into a game expecting another chance,” he said. “I’ve always been playing for the jersey next week. That’s the way it is and this is no different.”

It is a humble and modest appraisal of a career in which Horne has been a solid performer who has often contributed world-class displays for both club and country.

“My whole career, I’ve been second choice. It doesn’t bother me,” he continued. “I always work hard and from the 
outside everyone talks about everyone else, it doesn’t matter what I do.

“So I tend to just not care and get on with my job. Keep working hard, keep my head down and don’t pay too much attention. Competition is great for the squad. I’m competitive, I want to win and I want to play, so it doesn’t matter how.”

Horne added: “I know what I bring. I’m not the flashiest of players but I know I’m ready to compete and I do a job in this team that makes us a 
better team. I’m not thinking too hard about anything, I’ll just go out this weekend and work my balls off.”

The Scotland management admitted this week 
that they had spent more 
time on themselves than the opposition ahead of the Nice clash but the onslaught of an old-school flair-filled France has focused minds.

“They are good, you look at their squad now and see the kind of depth they’ve got,” said Horne.

“They’ve got a really competitive 31 [already named World Cup squad] as well, and that’s bringing out stuff, they’ve spent a little time together and that’s bringing out a lot of stuff that wasn’t there in the recent past.

“The crucial thing with the French is that you never know what’s going to turn up on the day. They made it really difficult for us at the weekend, I thought their back row was awesome, made really good yards first phase.

“We maybe struggled getting set and getting off the line. And their 7 and 8, they were hammering into hinges and that has a compounding effect.

“They were good and they’ll be up for it again this week. We’ve beaten them the last couple of times at Murrayfield and they’ll be wanting to test their away form before they go to Japan. Every team will 
relish that.”