It has been no secret in the long build-up to this World Cup, which is now just 27 days away from Scotland’s opener against a bruised Ireland in Yokohama, that centre and back row have been the most obviously competitive positions as Gregor Townsend and his coaching team contemplate their final 31-man squad.
Chris Harris did his prospects no harm at all at the weekend with a match-winning try and solid all-round showing which cemented his position as a strong contender to be on that plane.
The former Newcastle Falcons centre, who moves to Gloucester next season, may not be the most familiar face to much of the Scottish rugby public but is clearly highly regarded by Townsend and provided the crucial breakthrough on his ninth cap as he hit a sweet angle to take skipper Greig Laidlaw’s pass midway through the second half and barge over to nudge Scotland in front after another shaky start.
French wing Damian Penaud’s early double, the first of which came after a fumbled pass by Harris’s centre partner Pete Horne, had the Scots on the back foot yet again but, coaxed superbly by Laidlaw, they worked their way out of jail.
Sean Maitland’s try just before half-time provided a crucial foothold back and Harris provided the decisive blow in a tense and well-matched contest following the one-sided rout of Nice a week before. “I feel like I’ve put myself in a good position. I have been training well and working hard,” said the centre.
“I was pretty confident going into the game. You just have to play your own game. I’ve had a rocky start to games in the past but you just have to forget about that and kick on.”
Harris endured a torrid start to his Test career in the Cardiff car crash which opened the 2018 Six Nations but Townsend has stuck with the Carlisle-born 28-year-old.
“It’s great just to see someone get out there and get a reward for the hard work he’s put in,” said Townsend.
“He is an outstanding defensive player and he’s worked really hard to improve his attacking. His passing, his re-setting and his decisions have been very good. He gives 100 per cent every time he plays.
“So to see him getting the reward of a try at Murrayfield – BT Murrayfield – and the crowd erupting, a crucial try for us, there can be no better feeling.”
On that try, Harris added: “I was running from pretty deep and I was just waiting for the ball. Thankfully, Greig saw me and he picked me out. You could see with the celebrations that we are all in this together, everyone just wants to win.
“That first game against France was just a bad day at the office. We got a bit of a kick up the backside on Tuesday when we returned to training and that kicked us on as a group.
“The players were upset by the performance they put in in Nice and we were all desperate to put a few wrongs right. We were fired up emotionally to react and I think we did that. Every coach had their say last week, they all said we had to be better but we knew that.
“It’s up to us to kick on now and improve even more.”