Harry Paterson's Scotland debut 'one of the best I've ever seen' as Edinburgh kid shines against France
Amid the despair of losing such a close match 20-16 against the French, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was able to purr about the performance of young full-back Harry Paterson, whose debut was described by his head coach as one of the best he has ever witnessed.
The 22-year-old Edinburgh player only had eight professional appearances under his belt prior to this match and was a surprise inclusion in Scotland’s original Six Nations squad, never mind being summoned for a match against one of the best in world rugby. But with regular 15s Blair Kinghorn and Ollie Smith injured, Townsend’s hand was forced when Kyle Steyn called off on gameday due to the imminent birth of his child. Kyle Rowe, who had been slated to start at full-back, moved to wing to cover Steyn’s absence and Paterson was put straight into the team. It was some baptism for a man who had only played 551 minutes of pro rugby before Saturday and only signed his first senior contract last March.
Paterson took a high ball within the first minute and grew into the game thereafter. “It’s one of the best debuts I’ve ever seen,” said Townsend. “We were playing a top three, top-four team in the world. Going up against that French backline, on a wet day at Murrayfield, he was excellent. I gave him a heads-up that he could be playing about nine o’clock this morning, then confirmed it with him at 10am. To play like that was fantastic and gives us a lot of encouragement about where Harry can go over these next few years.
“He knew he’d have a lot of kicks to field due to the way France play and with the weather being wet, but he just got stronger and stronger as the game went on. He’s really impressed us with how he’s played in the away games for Edinburgh this year. Especially the win over Ulster in Belfast, and Clermont as well, he really stood up. That says a lot about a player if they can stand up in those tough environments. He’s now shown he can do it at Test level.”
Townsend is pleased to now have so many options across his backline. “Kyle Rowe deserves a mention as well,” continued Townsend. “That was only his second Test start for Scotland and, like Harry, I thought he was excellent. We are building depth in the back three. Harry probably came into the squad thinking he’s behind Blair, behind the guys on the wing, but opportunities come sometimes when you don’t expect them. That can be due to injuries or, in this case, someone’s wife expecting a baby.”