Chris Harris 'still improving' at 31 as Scotland centre looks to derail France in Six Nations
The Scotland centre is something of a late developer but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
A defensive bulwark in Gregor Townsend’s backline, Harris is the player who adds balance. While Finn Russell, Darcy Graham, Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg grab the limelight, the Gloucester player goes about his business with unfussy accuracy.
He can now be considered to be in his peak years, playing at the highest level while others of a similar age are winding down. George Kruis, for example, announced this week that he would retire at the end of the season. The former England and Saracens forward was born in 1990, just like Harris, but the Scot feels he still has plenty left in the tank.
His prelude to full-time professional rugby was a degree in architecture at Northumbria University and Harris resisted the offer to end the course early so he could play for Newcastle Falcons.
“My Premiership debut was the day before my 24th birthday. I was four years at uni so I didn’t go full-time to the academy until I was 22 so there wasn’t really that opportunity [to play at a high level earlier],” he explained.
“I went down one path which led me through university. I got offered to go into Newcastle’s academy a year before I finished uni but I told them no, I wanted to finish my university year. If you're asking if there’s any regrets, there’s no regrets.
“I look at my career and I think it’s been pretty decent so far. I still think I’m improving even though I am the age I am. I started late so still I think I've got a little bit to go.”
Harris scaled new heights in the summer with his call-up for the British & Irish Lions and he played in the second Test against South Africa in Durban.
Born in Carlisle and Scottish qualified through his Edinburgh-born grandmother, Harris' talents were noted by Townsend and he made his international debut as a replacement against Samoa during the 2017 autumn internationals.
He now has 34 Test caps (33 for Scotland and one for the Lions) and is a cornerstone of Townsend’s team. His role this weekend will be to try to derail the French bandwagon that is gathering steam as the Six Nations resumes for its third round.
“They’re playing well, probably the best they have played for a while,” noted Harris. “They had a bit of a slow start against Italy but they are looking really sharp.
“They are a quality outfit and if we let them get into the high-tempo game and we are not physical enough then it is going to be a tough day for us.”
Fabien Galthie’s side have won two from two while Scotland’s momentum was halted by Wales in Cardiff. France looked particularly impressive in defeating Ireland but Harris is confident the Scots have enough defensive nous to disrupt their freewheeling offloading game.
“It’s about being aware of their threats and if that’s the offload we’ve got to be alive to it,” he said. “Ultimately, we’ve got to make sure we’re dominant with our collisions to negate that offload threat.”
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