Peter Horne has had a mixed relationship with the stand-off berth but feels a big corner was turned with his star turn against France earlier in the year.
The Glasgow Warriors man, who also plays inside centre, is named as the back-up to first-choice stand-off Finn Russell in Vern Cotter’s squad for the autumn Tests series, which kicks off against Australia at BT Murrayfield on Saturday, and says it is a position he has become more and more comfortable in.
Back in the 2015 Six Nations whitewash he endured a miserable moment in the home game against Italy when, deputising at No 10 for the suspended Russell, his missed touch late on led to Italy’s match-winning try.
Redemption came 12 months later, however, when Russell limped off the home Six Nations clash against the French in the sixth minute and Horne came off the bench. The loss of the star playmaker appeared a potentially fatal setback at the time but the substitute went on to run the game with astuteness and style, guiding Scotland to a famous 29-18 win.
“I think everyone thought it was a disaster when they saw me run on there but after the game it was really nice,” said Horne. “Personally I approached that game just like I would any other game.
“Although I had been training primarily at 12 I did have a few runs at ten because I knew I was one injury away from a big opportunity and I would never have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t properly prepared.
“So, every week I go through everything as if I am starting and nothing changes.
“It was such a great game to be part of it and afterwards I was just so happy and relieved that we had got a great win in front of our home fans. The last time I had played at home it hadn’t went too well.
“What’s really nice is that there have been a few times – like when we were down at Gloucester and down at Harlequins in pre-season – both times a random bloke has come over and said well done for how I played against France. One said ‘I had my head in my hands when Finn came off, but you came on and helped us win that game’.
“So I think everyone is a little bit more positive about it now and I certainly love playing there.”
The 27-year-old has made a timely return from a broken hand, getting 80 minutes at stand-off against Scarlets at the weekend.
In the five games he has played for Glasgow this season, four have been at No 10 and Horne says he feels ready to cover the pivotal role if called upon this month.
“I guess with Duncy [Weir] moving through to Edinburgh it’s meant when Finn’s not been available through his head injury and stuff it has let me get a bit more game time in there,” continued Horne.
“In the past Duncy would just come in and I was pushed out to 12 more. I’ve enjoyed my time at 10 this season. I think two seasons ago I played a lot at 10, last season not so much with Glasgow. With Scotland I’ve been doing a lot of training at stand-off and in the tour to Japan I was covering it on the bench. I’ve had plenty of reps there. I’m always trying to improve.
“At the weekend there against Scarlets there was a couple of things to sharpen up on. I’ll just do what I’m told. You’re just desperate to get out there on the field, whether it be at 12 or at 10, then I’m happy.”
Horne is renowned as one of the deep analytical thinkers in the squad and added: “I always strive for perfection and I guess if you have high standards like that you always have something to work on.
“I am self-critical bit it means you can just brush it off when other people start slagging you off. You can say to yourself that it doesn’t really matter because I know what I have to do to get better.”
Horne was one of Scotland’s tryscorers that famous and, ultimately, fateful day at Twickenham last October when Cotter’s men came within a whisker of reaching the World Cup semi-finals, losing a 35-34 classic against Australia.
Horne admits that the sight of the gold jerseys will stir some emotions but said: “It was pretty special at the time bit we didn’t go on to win the game. Every time I look back I just think about the end of the match and it is still pretty tough to take. We’re just hoping to make some good memories.
“We were disappointed to be on the wrong side of the scoreboard that day, but coming back up to Glasgow on the train from London a couple of days later I realised that games like that make you hungrier for more. I was just desperate to get another crack, to get another game in a Scotland shirt in front of a big crowd like that and see if I could go a bit better.
“It’s great that we’re playing them this weekend and that we get another crack at them off the back of a brilliant win [over Wales] where they showed what a good side they are.
“There’s been a bit of negative press about them but just because you lose a couple of games against New Zealand doesn’t make you a bad side.
“They showed that at the weekend when they were outstanding.
“Bernard Foley was brilliant, [Israel] Folau was back to his best, and they put away a really good Wales side. It’ll be a really good test, but then that’s why you play the game – you want to play the best players in the world so it’ll be good.”